Cryptogenic is a term that refers to something of obscure or unknown origin. It also is a band from Charleroi, the Francophone region of Belgium. Cryptogenic, who never formally demoed, was formulated in 2014 and instead opted to release its debut barely a year after forming. “There Is No Hope …Beyond Mutation” is a concept album about a viral disease that turns mankind into ravaging, bloodthirsty mutants. The biggest selling point, for both band and album, is frontwoman Catarina Craveiro Salsinha.
Salsinha’s growl is impressive but the unflattering, overly dry production tends to make her sound unintendedly monotonous. That isn’t to say to say that Cryptogenic wouldn’t benefit from better developed vocal lines. As the Mike van Mastrigt-fronted Sinister and the various Incantation and Monstrosity frontmen have proven in spades it is perfectly possible to implement variation while staying within a certain vocal style. For the most part Catarina’s vocals are similar to those of Edda Tegeder Óskarsdóttir from Icelandic death metal outfit Angist. A number of songs include mood setting atmospheric sections with piano playing, church organs, sound effects and the like. A multitude of emotive, carefully-phrased and beautifully laid out solos stand in stark contrast to the rather matter-of-fact and robust death metal that the band chooses to specialize in.
‘Deep into Flesh’ aims for that classic morbid, desolate atmosphere of desiccation and decay. It is helped immensely by the sudden piano melody and the eerie opening section. 'The Last Glow Of Humanity' is one of the more traditional cuts of the record. The slow midsection in ‘Unchained Hatred’ borders treacherously close on deathcore - and slam-death territory, neither of which is advisable. Thankfully it is redeemed by a spectacular solo. Why ‘Requiem For Ashes’ is its own song, and not integrated as an intro piece to ‘A Den Of Iniquity’ probably has to do with that it can be used as an interlude or introduction in during live shows. ‘Dismember’ and ‘Obsessed By the Screams’ are the strongest cuts of the record, the former because it is the most straightforward and focused. The latter retains the focus and tight structuring and adds a number of truly exhilarating leads portions.
“There Is No Hope …Beyond Mutation” is plagued by an uneven and somewhat schizophrenic mix of American death metal, melodic Swedish death metal, technical metal, and stomping death-groove. The songwriting, while not lacking in atmosphere, is often confused and directionless with songs either containing too much ideas, or not enough. Often Cryptogenic will start a song with an American sounding section only to move through a brief almost hardcore chord progression only to transition into saccharine Swedish melodic death metal territory. The disconnect between all three parts couldn’t be more glaring and obvious. While the versatility of players is to be commended, it naturally results in a lack of cohesion within the songs individually, and the album as a whole. Cryptogenic wants a bit of everything, and ends up with mostly nothing. What the band overcompensates in percussive vocal delivery and punch, it lacks in character and colour. The album, and the band, lacks the stylistic cohesion that made institutions as Aborted, Ancient Rites and Emeth the household names that they are considered today.
The album was recorded at Rising Recording Studio in Houffalize, Luxembourg. It combines a guitar tone not dissimilar to the early work of Sunlight Studio and Tomas Skogsberg (the formative works of Necrophobic, At the Gates and Unleashed come to mind) with a concrete bass guitar that recalls "The Bleeding" by Cannibal Corpse, and sets that to an organic, warm drum sound. The production is crunchy without being overproduced, nor does the album sound compressed, sterile or brickwalled. It does lack a sense of gloss and polish that is expected of contemporary death metal. The drums are the best produced on all fronts. The digital artwork by Hybrid Graphic suitably fits the album narrative and thankfully avoids both the comical over-the-top gore of this genre’s more underground practitioners and the video game scene recreations of its more market savvy adherents. It, however, is not the second coming of "Fearless Undead Machines" or any of the canvasses Wes Benscoter crafted for infamous New York death metal institution Mortician.
Cryptogenic is a typically Belgian band in the sense that it bathes in a veneer of contemporaneousness and modernity but can’t quite escape the looming shadow of its various influences, both old and new. In that sense Cryptogenic squarely falls into the category of fellow Belgian bands as Insanity Reigns Supreme, Pestifer and Serial Butcher that all have established potential, and reliably release albums – but never quite manage to grow beyond the tenets of the underground. Cryptogenic obviously aims high, but not high enough to truly become an international player. “There Is No Hope …Beyond Mutation” is far from terrible, but some finetuning is needed to properly hone Cryptogenic strengths into something more potent and threatening. The album is limited to 1000 copies worldwide so pick it up while supplies last.