Suum – Cryptomass (Seeing Red Records, 14 February 2020)
Have you ever been tricked by an album cover? Like, you got totally drawn in by this mesmerizing artwork that so perfectly encapsulates a particular mood — but then you listen to it and the music sucks, or at least it completely fails to match up with your expectations based on its exterior?
Or looking at it from the opposite side: how often has poorly-designed and/or conceptually uninteresting imagery caused you to bypass listening to something, which for all you know could have ended up being your new favorite record if you had actually given it a chance?
Well, today we’ve got the rare treat of an album whose outward appearance exactly lines up with its internal contents, Cryptomass — the sophomore release from Roman doomsters Suum, which emerged mere days ago from the decaying catacombs illustrated above (and credited to the band’s guitarist, “Antonio Painkiller“), by way of Ohio’s Seeing Red Records.
The album opens with the title track, starting off sounding rather faraway, and then very slowly materializing — incorporating the dismal tolling of a distant church bell, as the doomiest of doom metal should.
From there, most of these nine tracks are filled with guitars that are reverby with just the right amount of crunchy distortion, plodding along with classic doom riffs (see “Funeral Circle” and “Burial at Night” for just a few great examples of this).
The sole exception to this would be “Mass in the Catacomb” near the end, which consists of two minutes of clean guitar performed in a rubato or somewhat tentative time signature, reminding me quite a bit of the guitar in Black Sabbath‘s “Solitude.”
Paired with this old-school epic doom sound, are extremely reverby baritone vocals, which are perfectly at home belting out in a “Demons Gate” or “Crystal Ball” style, or even approaching Danzig territory in closing song “Reaper Looks in Your Eyes”; but at other times the performance gives off a hint of gothic campiness along the lines of The Damned (especially in “Creatures from the Vault”), while often a “bats have left the bell tower” level of darkness clouds over it all.
Incidentally, while we’re referencing Bauhaus, there’s this drum fill in “Claws of Evil” that sounds exactly like the recurring drumbeat in “Double Dare,” like the tone and rhythm and timing and everything, but I’m sure that’s just coincidental. But no mistaking the fact that the album closer brings back a tolling bell as the music fades away, coming full circle in a “dust to dust” kind of way…
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