I abhor vacantly echoing a press release, but Earache’s got this one down. The official word on Usurper’s influences are Bolt Thrower and Celtic Frost, and fuck me if that doesn’t have it down cold. The sound of Cryptobeast is pretty fucking much the midpoint between the barbarian charge of Bolt Thrower and the opaque ache of der Frost. Or consider Usurper to be a thrashier Obituary, stripped clean of the Tardy Brothers’ swampy roots and replaced with a darker, more metallic underbelly. There’re hints of the inexorable crush of Unleashed and Sodom (enough cool riffs amid the speed thrills for Sodom, too) in there, as well. Take for instance the unstoppable force of “Return of the Werewolf.” A Red mist of riffage is melded easily to hyperspeed black metal drumming and over-the-top vocal savagery to stunning effect. New vocalist Dan Tyrantor doesn’t hold back on the Tardy-isms and Warrior-esque vocal attack either; it’s a truly unhinged and convincing attack, just throwing his abused vocal chords into each line. The Warrior-style will always kick the bodycount up a few notches. Returning drummer Joe “Apocalyptic” Warlord is a monster: blast beats, double bass, inventive runs, he’s got’em all — a lot of drummers in this style of panzer metal wear on me with blast beats and nothing else, but Warlord is all over the fucking kit. Carcass Chris and Rick Scythe are good hands on the guitar too, they add just enough doom and thrash influences to their overall deathly style of guitar playing to keep things from getting too pro-forma. And it is Usurper’s OTT enthusiasm that will have them win the day. Want metal cries to arms? They’ve got’em. Chanting background vocals that sound like a legion of warriors? Present and accounted for. An unerring belief in metal power coupled with a fervent Lovecraftian imagination for the darker things in the (after)life? Monsters and warriors and mythology, that’s about all there is worth singing about. Yup. A florid classical interlude or two? Why not? They’re fucking Usurper after all.
And trust me, with names like Joe “Apocalyptic” Warlord and Carcass Chris, there’s no time for fucking around with unbelievers, which leads one to one of the standout tracks on Cryptobeast: “Kill For Metal,” which has to be one of the premiere instances of Manowar done death metal style. Built around a chant of “Kill/kill/kill…. For metal!” there’s dark mutterings about slitting the throats of posers, which fabulously even one-ups Manowar, who only wanted to have the aforementioned wimps and posers “leave the hall.” Goddamn, man.
Just hitting the one-decade mark, these Chicago death metal mainstays soldier on with Cryptobeast. Does it reinvent the death metal wheel? Hell no. But does it sound powerful, and keep you entertained? Hell yes. Fight on, brothers.
Earache Records: www.earache.com