“Blasphemy Made Flesh” is the debut album by Montreal technical death metal band, Cryptopsy. There are three versions: the original 1994 Hammerheart release, a 1997 re-release by Displeased Records, and a 2001 re-release by Century Media, which features a different cover.
This is my first experience with Cryptopsy and I was interested in the band because I had discovered that Montreal had a hot death metal scene going and I decided to check out some groups. After my usual cursory listen on YouTube, I decided to get this album first because of the frequent cropping up of the bass guitar, which reminded me of Quebec metal legends, Voivod.
The sound on my CD copy, the original Hammerheart release, is pretty poor when going from any much better-produced album. First, I have to knock the volume up three clicks, and the sound quality difference between a well-produced, more recent death metal album and this one is enormous. However, like many albums, “Blasphemy” doesn’t sound so bad once you get into the album atmosphere. Like many extreme metal bands of the day, recording quality was frequently pretty poor.
Cryptopsy’s sound is heavy, brutal, and pummeling. The guitars are really low, so much so that the bass guitar notes really pop out at times, especially when the bass gets a brief solo break (solo here meaning playing alone for a bar and not lead). What I appreciate is that the band can employ both very high speed playing and slow down for some very heavy, crushing riffs. I have also noted that Cryptopsy know how to play slow and heavy and keep the drums in tempo. Many bands I have heard recently will play medium tempo music but have the bass drums and snare going full tilt. It sounds great usually but sometimes seems unnecessary. On this album slower playing often means a slower beat. Conversely, sometimes the drums strike at a fairly slow tempo while the guitars are going nuts. These changes in speed, though, are good for appreciating the some of the riffs and guitar work.
Vocalist, Lord Worm (Dan Greening), delivers really deep, guttural barking and some mega-screams that are as frightening as a storm banshee trying to enter your room on a blustery night to wake the dead. At first I was a bit put off his vocal style because I seriously could not pick out anything he belch-roared. I looked at the lyrics for a track like “Open Face Surgery” which reads:
“I’ve learned to control my thoughts / Ever since I recognized the first eavesdropper / Those who listen in on my thoughts / My logic, my sanity”
But what I can pick out at best sounds like: “Wudaboit, biddatboit, budahboit, biidah! Weahbuot, biddahbuot, buadbuit, biidadut!” There are times when I think I can almost decipher the gruff utterances and follow along with the lyrics, but then the vocalizations stop when I’ve only reached the third line of a four-line verse. Song after song, I really have not one iota of a clue what words comprise the lyrics of these tracks. Reading the lyrics and listening to the songs I feel like the lyrics are the translations of an angry Neanderthal’s ranting. But I actually don’t mind. Listening to the whole album straight through it all becomes part of the sonic experience. A funny thing, even the spoken lines in one track aren’t easy to pick out. “Serial Messiah”, by its opening church organ notes and a meekly speaking youth uttering, “Get off me you bastard”, would seem to be about Catholic priests who prey upon young boys. But we hear hurried footsteps, a door open, and the youth’s attempt at defiance, and then this is followed by a deep voice saying what sounds like “I need gas for the lawn!” Or maybe it’s “I need ask for the Lord”. I am totally unsure. But again, I consider the vocals part of the entertainment factor so I’m okay with them.
The only real complaint I have is that the snare drum is mixed quite loud compared to the much lower-toned guitars and so sometimes it seems the dominant sound in the mix is the high-speed snare drum playing which leaves the guitars just deep rumbles barely discernable above the percussion and demonic barking.
I’m curious about some of the band’s more recent albums. This first offering has its strengths, mostly in the actual music played, but the production needs improvement. Not a total winner but good enough to merit further investigation into this band.