The Book of Suffering: Tome 1
Reviewed By Michael O'Brien
I guess you could characterise my relationship with Cryptopsy as being somewhat atypical for someone of my age group. While I get the impression that the bulk of folks who are my age or older hold up 1994’s Blasphemy Made Flesh and 1996’s None So Vile in particular as Cryptopsy’s finest moments, I came to the party on 1998’s Whisper Supremacy after the revered (but in my opinion massively overrated) vocalist Lord Worm had left and Mike DiSalvo had taken over vocal duties.
While I’ll admit that the short, two album DiSalvo era of Cryptopsy was patchy at best (... And Then You’ll Beg was definitely a very ordinary album), that is the era that I hold what I guess is probably a nostalgic candle for. It is also the era that heralded the beginning of Cryptopsy’s nosedive in quality which reached its nadir on 2008’s The Unspoken King - an album that was nearly universally panned but which, honestly, was nowhere near as bad as the loudest of jeers would have you believe. It was still far from a bright moment in Cryptopsy’s history, though, and 2012’s self-titled follow-up album, which was received rather well en masse, failed to do a hell of a lot for me personally.
So with three years having passed, the long-running Canadian band has returned with the first of three planned and crowd-funded EPs under the title of The Book of Suffering and it's pretty much exactly what anyone familiar with modern Cryptopsy would be expecting to hear which will either be a good or bad thing, depending on your perspective.
While I have to say upfront that 21st century Cryptopsy and I don't have the rosiest of relationships, I wholeheartedly applaud the band's decision to offer up three short, snack sized EPs rather than another long form recording this time around. They're an act that have a lot of technical talent, no doubt, but they're also an act that is rarely able to hold my interest at an album level so the four songs and near 17-minute running time of Tome 1 is pretty much the perfect amount of the band's particular blend of death metal for me. I suspect this might be the case for a number of people out there, too.
With that having been said, it is worth noting that Tome 1 doesn't offer up any real surprises either - especially if you're familiar with modern Cryptopsy. This isn't intended to be a slight against the band, per se, but it is a fact that will likely affect whether or not you're actually going to be interested in checking this EP out.
What stands out most to me about the four songs on offer here isn't so much what the band has penned but the vigour with which they perform it. There's a sense of hunger and drive that radiates outward in a way that I simply wasn't expecting to hear. Perhaps the years Cryptopsy has spent in and around the doldrums has brought about a revival of their creative spirits. Whatever it is, though, it's very refreshing to hear.
When it comes to the actual music, though, this is where my earlier qualifier about there being no surprises comes to the fore and is the point at which my old quibbles with the band rear their head.
The thing is that for all of the intensity, the brutality, and the technicality that Cryptopsy unleash on Tome 1, there isn't a single riff that has stayed with me after I've listened to it, and this has been a long-running complaint I've had with the band; while it may bear similarities to DiSalvo-era material, there sure as hell isn't anything as memorable as “White Worms” or “Emaciate” here and the EP frequently turns into a blur.
It's not that what the band has written isn't fun or enjoyable, it's just that it spends so much time operating at 11 that it hasn't allowed itself much room to develop some real meat on its bones. There are definitely some moments that add a little variety here and there but they are neither frequent nor impactful enough to really make a lasting impression on me, and this is a shame because, as much as I like my music to be heavy, I also like it have hooks and there just aren’t any here.
Ultimately Tome 1 is a solid EP from a veteran band that still has an obvious fire in its belly and while I'd never want Cryptopsy to abandon what it is that makes them unique, I continue to hope the day is coming when they are able to take those core elements and inject something truly fresh into the mix to capitalise on the renewed energy they exhibit.