At the start of this year, if you were to ask a death metal fan which albums they were most excited for in 2021, chances are they would have said At The Gates, Cannibal Corpse, and Crypta. While the first two are legacy acts, Crypta are less than two years old and already hold the undivided attention of the extreme metal scene. This Brazilian/Dutch four-piece boast former members of Burning Witches, Hagbard and most notably, Nervosa. On June 11th 2021, Crypta released their debut album ‘Echoes of the Soul’ on Napalm Records. I was fortunate enough to interview drummer Luana Dametto about ‘Echoes of the Soul’ on episode 16 of The Coffin Nail, where it also featured as Album of the Week.
The first thing that needs to be understood about Crypta is that they love old-school death metal with the utmost sincerity. ‘Echoes of the Soul’ was made with a thorough focus on paying tribute to the sound and style of 90’s Floridian and Gothenburg-styled death metal. Before a single note is played, the album’s cover declares their stylistic intent with a beautiful painting by Wes Benscoter, who has been responsible for album covers for Black Sabbath, Slayer, and Kreator, to name a few. The amorphous collection of eyes and teeth on the appropriately focal crypt, would not look out of place on a Death or Obituary album.
They aimed to avoid having the album sounding ‘too modern’, and mostly succeeded. The drums sound refreshingly dynamic compared to the triggered hits of most recent death metal albums. However, the guitar tone is much more rounded than the abrasive, sizzling sound of classic death metal. This is best heard in the Entombed-style groove of ‘Kali’. While Entombed are synonymous with the ‘chainsaw’ guitar tone, Crypta guitarists Sonia Anubis and Tainá Bergamaschi instead refrain from using excessive distortion, keeping the riffs sounding visceral yet clear, and allowing the solos to soar rather than pierce through the song. ‘Kali’s rhythmic diversity is a welcome change of pace from the relentless assault of the first half-dozen songs, and is a definite highlight of the entire album.
Lyrically, a lot of the album is a conveyor belt of death metal tropes and buzz-words. This isn’t really a problem, as it serves the style well. But there is a lot more to be unravelled in the lyrics than may be immediately obvious. For instance, opening track ‘Starvation’ starts with the morbid fascination one might expect from a death metal song, but through each verse, the song becomes more of a rebellious and unifying social commentary on human suffering rather than a voyeuristic horror show.
Thin Lizzy frontman Phil Lynott once said that lyrics were simply poems with music, and that good lyrics worked just as well on the page, without music. This couldn’t be more true of ‘Blood Stained Heritage’. Presumably referencing the abuse of the indigenous people of Brazil across 500 years of colonialism, the lyrics are specific enough to feel personal, but broad enough to be adapted to other examples. While there is nothing wrong with paying homage to classic death metal, especially when it is this well executed, the identity that ‘Blood Stained Heritage’s lyrics give the song suggests that Crypta are capable of not only emulating the pinnacle of death metal, but of advancing it.
Bass player and vocalist Fernanda Lira uses a very controlled ‘vocal fry’ technique throughout the album. Barely louder than normal speech, the ease of the technique allows her to quickly interchange between low growls and high screams, as well as hold great sustain. For the best example, listen to closing track, ‘From The Ashes’. ‘From The Ashes’ deals with the concept of rebirth by evoking images of a phoenix and viewing change as a fundamentally positive thing. It distills everything from Crypta’s musical influences to their personal stories, into five unforgettable minutes. Considering the band’s formation out of numerous bands, the personal implication is thinly veiled and resoundingly triumphant. Even the commercial release of the song holds a weighted impact. It was the first song Crypta released and also closes their debut album, sending a clear message about the band’s conviction and direction. The fact that it is probably their best song doesn’t hurt either.
‘Echoes of the Soul’ is an unapologetic celebration of the death metal genre and it could hardly have been made by a more appropriate collection of musicians. Any death metal purist will drool over the intensity and authenticity of the first five songs. And although ‘Starvation’ and ‘Death Arcana’ have blown me away every time I’ve heard them, there is a sense over the first half of the album that the band have something to prove. If the point is that they can make death metal as good as anyone else, then the point has been made. It is worth bearing in mind that Crypta are four exceptionally talented young women from Brazil and the Netherlands, performing one of the most white/male dominated forms of extreme metal (and that alone is noteworthy) as competantly as their musical heroes. Take a moment to consider how far Crypta’s origins are from their predecessors and you will quickly realise that ‘Echoes of the Soul’ is not just a great album, but a future landmark.