Technical death metal can sound too much like calculus at 250 BPM.  Sure, challenge is a part of the metal deal, but if an album is a class, the problem sets need to be broken up with fieldtrips to the mortuary or the firing range. “Applied math,” I think it’s called?

Numerous lineups and near two decade into their career, the band Cryptopsy, on the album Cryptopsy, make a case for tech death, or extreme death metal, as more than a logical abstraction, and certainly more than a nostalgia act.

It was a bold move for these Quebecois to choose 2012 to release heir eponymous album. The boundary pushing tech juggernaut has been somewhat spotty over the last decade — just check the unbalanced attempts at deathcore on 2008’s The Unspoken King. Their one slap-you-in-the-face, soil-the-bed classic, None So Vile, came out all the way back in 1996. Naming an album after your band this late in the game is a statement, but what kind of statement?

As it turns out, it’s one you should probably study up on. Cryptopsy brings the old sickness back on this. These are outlandish, frictional performances. Cohesion aren’t what these songs are about; they’re attempts at death by exhaustion. When Cryptopsy go full speed, it sounds like they’re racing each other into a giant meat grinder, on motor bikes, and that they all have rabies and advanced degrees in jazz composition.

Drummer Flo Mournier’s harrowingly human blasts value intensity over snapping to some dipshit mechanical grid. The guitars coil into vertigo spirals, and with a Jaco-pasteurized undergirding of bass absurdity (maybe second only to the Atheist slapper), the effect is less crazy train, and more hairy ball of chaotic fury, or its French language equivalent. This is not to say they’re not tight (just check the multifaceted grind of “Damned draft dodgers”), it’s just Cryptopsy are the rare technically oriented band that knows there’s more to a performance than playing in time. All others should take note.

Generally, this is not an album for beginners, and I can think of thirty kinds of imagined metal fans who would chafe in whatever piece of metal merch they’re wearing (loincloth screenprints 2k12!) at the grisly, disorienting onslaught of “Two Pound Torch.” Still, there are a couple of pieces of non-solo melodicism that take things in new directions. Both “Shag Harbour’s Visitors” and “Red-Skinned Scapegoat” lapse into mournful, conflicted grooves that show the Cryptopsy beast can not only destroy, but suffer too. Where’d they learn to do that?

(3 1/2 out of 5 horns)


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