*** Go to our YouTube channel in the link below to see the video review of this record in episode #43 of the SBR Album of the Week.
Luana Dametto and Fernanda Lira set tongues wagging in 2020, when both left Brazilian death-thrash heavyweights, Nervosa. Many speculated that they wanted to split the band for good and had no intention of continuing with a genre of music that held little excitement for them. Things could not be more different. The duo returned in 2021 with a more technical death metal outfit and released Crypta’s debut album to critical acclaim. Echoes of the Soul stayed close to the Morbid Angel boundaries of classic death metal with a big focus on guitar chops and intense drum work and secured minor chart success in Germany. Scream Blast Repeat called it ‘a well-polished record that feels like a middle ground of extreme genres without feeling overly ambitious or unique.’ This is not the case with album number two. Shades of Sorrow is an ambitious record with a wider palette of influences than its predecessor.
The most notable aspect of this record is its confident delivery. Clearly, the band enjoyed productive writing sessions in the pre-production phase of Shades of Sorrow. No two guitar riffs are the same; many compositions thrive on dynamic tempo changes; and the drum snares reverberate with that classic dry sound from the 1990s. Fernanda Lira plays her part to perfection as the vitriolic death metal anti-heroine. Listen to her extended roar at the beginning of ‘Dark Clouds’ as she opens a metallic tour de force of non-stop carnage. Brief Flamenco passages separate the crunchy riff patterns. The violent down-picking action of Tainá Bergamaschi and Jéssica Falchi is heavy enough to land them a jail sentence. Those that thought the band would suffer after the surprise departure of Sonia Anubis have no need to be worried – the expressive lead guitar play here is as colourful as ever.
The songs centred around a standard verse-bridge-chorus structure seldom feel predictable on this LP. You’ll find it hard to identify the reoccurring sections unless you follow the lyric booklet. Then things start to take shape like they do when you give your …And Justice for All vinyl a spin after many years of inactivity. ‘Poisonous Apathy’ carries an impressive weight of chugging bass guitar underneath the macabre neo-classical fretboard worship. It doesn’t take them long to figure out that a death metal chorus needs a phrasing of melodic guitar to counter the dark power chords. ‘The Outsider’ assembles a harmonised doom passage in the intro but switches to a Morbid Angel assault. The force of electricity and note-shredding intensity might remind you of cult French band, Scarve, from their promising dawn in the early 2000s.
Like all good metal bands, Crypta know that an over reliance on fast tempos can mask song writing weaknesses. ‘Stonghold’ thrives on a spiky up-tempo punch, like the latest Memoriam album. Gregor Mackintosh (Paradise Lost) would be impressed by the string-bending melodies of the chorus. You think this will evolve as a standard rock structure, but Dametto and Lira tease the second cycle of verse and bridge by inserting clean passages and instrumental renditions in place of the gritted teeth rasp of another chorus.
It’s clear that Death’s 1995 Symbolic album has pride of place in the band’s record collection. Nervosa were always more influenced by Chuck Schuldiner’s earlier work, but Crypta have the musicianship and love for expanding the boundaries of death metal without sacrificing its primal edge. ‘Trial of Traitors’ is a standout at track eight. Here, they weave the contrasting guitar patterns and work the transitions with ease. The Behemoth arpeggio in the bridge will surprise you as much as the reoccurring blast beats.
An analysis of the lyrical themes on Shades of Sorrow shows a preponderant emphasis on depression and anxiety. It feels like a personal album straight from Fernanda Lira’s anguished heart. Claustrophobia, persecution, and vengeance are as common here as the virtues of fortitude and survival. “Down in the pit of defeat / Couldn’t witness the dawn upon me / In the depths of desolation / Intangible surface, out of reach,” she snaps on the excellent ‘Lord of Ruins’. Any band that can save their best song for the penultimate track on an album of fifty-one minutes deserve praise. It’s their most ambitious composition to date, leaning on the triumphant black metal of Woods of Ypres and the dramatic posturing of Amon Amarth while ravaging through your speakers with the flair of mid-90s Carcass.
Death metal will always find ways to remain relevant, and Crypta can take pride in their achievements on Shades of Sorrow. This LP ought to be a bloated and repetitive affair, yet it sounds fresh and enlivening. That’s because it’s straight from the heart and a product of the head.
Release Date: 04/08/2023
Record Label: Napalm Records
Standout tracks: Poisonous Apathy, Trial of Traitors, Lord of Ruins
Suggested Further Listening: Catharsis – Human Failures (2021), Death – Symbolic (1995), Blood Red Throne – Imperial Congregation (2021)