Nightmare Traversal by CryptaeRelease date: October 2, 2020
Label: Sentient Ruin Laboratories
Great new drilling, juddering experiment-o-death album from Cryptae, made up of members of Dutch extreme bands Imperial Cult, Dead Neanderthals and Plague Organ.
It starts with a kind of sizzling sound of brain-frying electricity and launches into creepy growls and chugging brutality. The effect is something like what you might hear if you jammed a soldering iron into a plug socket while inside the movie Gremlins 2, because you wanted to telepathically connect with the malevolent and mischievous characters who managed to turn themselves into electricity.
The promo blurb for the album says the group imagined a dystopian world based on videogames from a similar era like DOOM, and tried to take the feel of it while draining out the characters and the gore, leaving endless grim glitching corridors of surreal virtual horror, which is a fantastic vision for music and pretty well executed I’d say. It certainly resonates with the cover art which feels like leylines of occult purpose manically scratched on the plans for a future power station… Nightmare Traversal is right.
I love the weird drlangingdrlang sound that starts the second track, an elastic band stretched across ten unreal dimensions then let go to smack you in the face. This is ‘Cryptic Passage’, and the riffs are short and bludgeoning, with no time to register what’s going on before jackhammer repetition hits again… turning another corner puts you back where you were, forever.
There’s a strangulated air to the whole thing, where the riffs are cramped, the drums sound really close and concreted in, and the guitar sound and playing combine in a way that completely restricts any hanging resonance except that which is created by distortion. Any sustained notes make you feel drained, you can feel your power bar blinking into the red as you take the damage.
‘Monastic Tomb’ and ‘Edifice’ have classic rock-breaking death riffs to open, and the guitars break a tiny bit freer. In the former the growl is locked in and chained to the floor, drawing back the riffing to a cogwheel chkchkchkchkchkchk machine in a mineshaft; next you’re tumbled violently in the demonic washing machine borrowed from Impetuous Ritual’s slimy duggerings. The only release is in the final seconds of ‘Cronos’, a kind of sound representation of an old TV picture vanishing to a bright point, a tiny relief until you realise that the escape is because it’s you that’s just flickered out.
A tight, controlled burst of brutal claustrophobia and sonic imprisonment.