We think that visual expression is really important in conveying the story of our music. It adds another layer of depth and is undeniable to ignore in these times where people have such a short attention span.
Bionic Swarm, the debut album from Cryptosis is a concept album full of tales of a futuristic dystopia soundtracked by stunning displays of technical thrash. Gavin Brown caught up with the members of Cryptosis (bassist Frank te Riet, vocalist/guitarist Laurens Houvast and drummer Marco Prij) to hear all about Bionic Swarm and what it is all about as well as the music videos that accompany tracks from Bionic Swarm, concept albums, science fiction and the history of Cryptosis as a band.
E&D:Your debut album Bionic Swarm is out now. How did the creation and recording of the album go?
Frank: We’ve been working on the album since 2018. First by collecting a lot of melodies, riffs, chord progressions and lyrical themes. Then we narrowed those down by picking the best ideas to work with. From there it was a big puzzle to solve, because we had so many ideas ranging from really epic parts to more abstract parts and soundscapes. It was a really great time to work on the album since we didn’t plan so many concerts in 2019, in order to be able to work with full focus on the songwriting. Just before we went into the studio we booked 10 days on a farm in the middle of nowhere where we rehearsed the whole album. Only the 3 of us stayed there, no friends, no distractions etc. We stayed there during the nights to party and during the days we worked on fine tuning the songwriting. After those 10 days, Marco went straight to the studio to start tracking the drums. All in all the recording process took about three months in total. We like to take the time, keep a clear mind and focus on all the details.
E&D: As this is your debut album, how excited are you to be giving people a glimpse into the world of Cryptosis?
Laurens: We have worked on this album (songwriting, rehearsing, recording, mixing, mastering etc.) for almost 2 years. In this time we also changed our name and got signed by one of the world market leaders in extreme metal music. Bionic Swarm is only the beginning of Cryptosis and we are excited as hell to unleash this record into the world.
E&D: Bionic Swarm is a concept album. What are the songs about and what story does it tell?
Frank: Bionic Swarm is a concept album consisting of eight dystopian stories that take place in the year 2149. Each track is a personal narrative of certain progress or technological advancements seen through the eyes of its inhabitants, both human and non-human. Our debut album is a concept album containing various stories that take place in the year 2149. The concepts are sci-fi/fantasy based, but with a realistic touch. If 130 years ago, you would have told people we would all have a super computer in our pockets with us every day, they would not have believed you. Our stories take place 130 years into the future, practically anything can happen. The sky is the limit. That’s why we think it’s so interesting to write about these topics. Bionic augmentations? We are already doing that nowadays, but in 2149 this will sure be at a much higher and sophisticated level. So we want the listener to think and fantasise about the future too. We’re giving them the mindset, the imagination is theirs.
E&D: Did you always plan on it being a concept album?
Laurens: Yes, we like the idea of concept albums a lot. In our previous band Distillator, we only wrote concept albums as well. It gives the whole album much more body, depth and meaning then a couple of random songs scraped together and put on a disc.
E&D: What other concept albums are you fans of and did they have any influence on Bionic Swarm?
Frank: There is not really another concept album that influenced us directly for writing this one. But there are a few really good concept albums made over the years. I think Pink Floyd – The Wall is a really well done example of that. With the music, the album, the tour, the film, the visuals etc.
E&D: Can you tell us about the artwork for Bionic Swarm and what it represents?
Frank: Since this is a concept album, we wanted to have an album artwork that is representative for all the songs. The gatefold artwork of the album was made by the amazing Eliran Kantor (Testament, Soulfly, Thy Art is Murder, My Dying Bride etc.). He came up with the comparison between humanity being addicted to thoughts/information and actively choosing to become a “host-body” for information, which in turn made him think of painting these downloading mechanisms based on a shape of a parasite. Since this is a concept album, we wanted to have an album artwork that is representative for all the songs. The parasite for us is a metaphor for humanity’s growing dependence on technology. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram have only been with us for a little over a decade and people can’t imagine life without. Imagine a world 130 years from now, where it’s becoming harder and harder to keep virtual reality and the real world apart from each other. Why live in the real world when there is a perfect virtual world where you can spend your time?
E&D: You have done music videos for the songs ‘Decypher’, ‘Transcendence’ and ‘Prospect Of Immortality’ (and ‘Death Technology’!). Can you tell us about the videos and their themes?
Laurens: The concept of the second track on the album ‘Decypher’ is about humanity relying more and more on technology. In 2149, it is the technology itself that holds the people in its grasp. It’s happening today, but it will be even more intense a 100 years from now. The song is written from the perspective of technology, who looks down on humanity as its cattle. Like humans look down on animals as a source of their nutrition. In the video you can see the technology infiltrating human society and taking over control. Since it’s a music video, we kind of fast forwarded the whole idea. We think this is a process that has already started, but will increase its impact in the future.
‘Prospect Of Immortality’ is written as a suicide note with an open ending. A girl thinks she is diagnosed with a mental illness, gets institutionalised. She believes suicide is the only one way out. At every attempt she fails to succeed as her thoughts, vitals and surroundings are carefully monitored 24/7. Did she succeed? Or is she just tired of fighting and gave up? This is definitely one of the more progressive songs on the album. This is not your typical verse-chorus structured song. ‘Prospect Of Immortality’ consists of 5 chapters, where each chapter resembles a reflection of the main character’s observations and feelings.
‘Transcendence’ tells about the possibilities of purchasing digital thoughts, knowledge and talents from a deceased person in the year 2149. The term “self investment” has shifted to a whole different kind of perspective. People can now enhance their mind to be more creative and smarter beyond their wildest dreams. This all comes at a price, people stopped using their own creativity and only rely on this source. ‘Transcendence’ is best described as fast, melodic, futuristic and to the point with a half time break in the middle section. The epic outro is a parallel of the streaming wanderlust trips people make with this new system of information.
‘Death Technology’ is about the concept of storing deceased bodies using low-temperature freezing techniques, with the hope of waking up in the future when they have invented a way to revive these bodies. This song is about a person who wakes up from cryosleep in the year 2149 and realises he is being detained and used as a test subject in a secret lab. The lyrics describe a technology that is very advanced and complex seen through the eyes of the test subject. The music is a reflection of that intricate technology. The riffs are built in a technical and extremely fast paced style. Whereas the structure of the song is built in the opposite direction, resembling the old yet simple world that this person is coming from.
E&D: Do you want your music videos to be like mini movies due to the cinematic quality of your music?
Frank: We think that visual expression is really important in conveying the story of our music. It adds another layer of depth and is undeniable to ignore in these times where people have such a short attention span. We want to give people the right mindset to think about the future.
E&D: You have just released the Transmissions Of Chaos split with Vektor. What has the reaction to that been like so far?
Laurens: The reactions have been overwhelming. It was an amazing collaboration with our friends in Vektor that came out perfectly. For both bands it has been beneficial. For us it’s great to have this split with one of our favorite bands and also dear friends. For Vektor it’s great to show the world they are back and tighter than ever before.
E&D: Who else would you love to do a split release with?
Frank: There are so many great bands, and we’re always open to collaboration.
E&D: You are doing a release show for Bionic Swarm. Are you looking forward to that?
Laurens: We literally can’t wait to do that. Our last show was over a year ago. We’re planning to make it a livestream to remember. Behind the scenes we’re already busy preparing to bring a lot of great stuff to the screen and ears of people.
E&D: Will you be playing the album in full at the livestream show?
Laurens: We have a special show prepared where we will play Bionic Swarm from front to back! Make sure to tune in on Saturday April 24th 20:45 CET.
E&D: Are there plans to take Bionic Swarm into the live arena once it is safe to do so?
Frank: Definitely, the sooner the better. We really can’t wait to hit the road for a tour and connect with our fans in a more meaningful way.
E&D: Can you tell us about the origins of Cryptosis?
Frank: We decided to name this new group “Cryptosis”, that, for us, stands for “technological hypnosis”. This name connects to the concept of Bionic Swarm and we plan to extend this for future releases.
E&D: Did you always envisage the music of Cryptosis to be forward thinking?
Laurens: Forward thinking is the core of Cryptosis. We really want to explore our creativity and we don’t want to hold back by boundaries some people give to a certain genre. We think this is the right way to the road of innovation. Something we think the heavy metal world can use right now, while so many bands try to copy what has already been done for the past 40 years.
E&D: What has been the biggest influence on the music and ideas of Cryptosis?
Frank: As individuals we really love a broad spectrum of music going from the typical old school rock ‘n roll to prog, symphonic, electronic, techno, folk, jazz and classical music. As a collective we’re really trying to put our own fingerprint to the sound of Cryptosis. Some say it’s a mix of Coroner, Rush, Dimmu Borgir and Dream Theater. Others say it’s symphonic progressive thrash metal. We call it Multi-Metal Eruption.
E&D: Who are your biggest influences as a musician?
Laurens: Yngwie Malmsteen, Michael Romeo, Richie BlackMore, Dave Mustaine.
Frank: Cliff Burton, Geddy Lee, Freddy Mercury, Jimi Hendrix.
Marco: Mikkey Dee, Dave Lombardo, Nicko McBrain, Gavin Harrison.
E&D: What science fiction movies and books have has the biggest effect on you and what made them resonate with you?
Laurens: Personally, I have always been a fan of the Star Wars trilogy. It’s fantastic and mesmerising to see the amount of creativity put into that. Also, our lyrics are partly inspired by the Netflix series called Black Mirror. They sure show some scary, but realistic concepts.
E&D: What have been some of the highlights in your journey in music so far?
Frank: With Distillator we played the 70.000 tons of Metal Cruise in 2016. We have done three European nightliner tours with Metal Church, Pestilence, Vektor and played main-support club show for Anthrax, Gojira, Testament and WASP. As Distillator we recorded and released 2 full length albums and a split release with Space Chaser from Germany. Also, we’ve been playing in 25 different countries all across the globe so far. As Cryptosis, we are just starting and have already signed a deal with Century Media Records. We have released a split EP with Vektor in February 2021 and our debut album Bionic Swarm in March 2021.