A very prominent feature of the old school metal ethos is that the third album in a band’s career has very often become its landmark album. Whether it is Master of Puppets or The Number of the Beast or even Reign in Blood, third albums have reached legendary statuses in countless cases. But would equating such legendary success to a similar possibility in the case of Bangalore’s Kryptos be too much of a long shot? Read on to decide for yourself.
For the uninitiated, Kryptos essentially play a very unique brand of melodic death metal, tightly encased in a steely packaging of old-school heavy metal, thrash metal and doom metal sentiments. Their latest album The Coils of Apollyon is of course, their third offering and had already garnered a lot of hype ever since its opening track ‘The Mask of Anubis‘ was released to the public in February. The track deserves the hype in every bit. It has an epic arpeggiated hook, a beautifully orchestrated set of chorus harmonies and a tight percussive foundation which is reinforced by the steely bass from Jayawant Tewari. The starkest feature of this album though is the vocals. Vocalist/guitarist Nolan Lewis has managed this great combination of a sneer and a rasp, made even more delightful by its dual-channel presence in the mix, with a slight hint of a death growl for added flavour.
The band carries forward the same sentiment for the subsequent title track which sees slightly faster riffs but maintaining the old-school practice of essentially having the one arpeggio around which the entire song revolves. In general, The Coils of Apollyon is more on the fast side but it does have its lower tempo breathers. ‘Serpent Mage‘ is reminiscent of the old-school doom metal style made famous by Black Sabbath, Candlemass and the like. Personally though, it seems to be the only sub-par track of the album. While it starts really fast, it ends up becoming a really boring hammer-on verse riff for the verse. However, since it has so many tempo variations, it keeps itself from becoming a song that you would altogether skip.
Now the next song is the anti-thesis of boring. ‘Nexus Legions’ has it all: a thrashy 2/2 intro beat, a pentatonic intro rhythm that matches the pace of the beat and probably the most epic verse riff that this band has ever written. If by this stage of the album you are already wondering as to where the tremolo riffs have gone, here they are! The riff plays not just with octaves but in extension plays with the timbre of the song as well. ‘Eternal Crimson Spires’ then brings in another doom metal breather, this one being a lot more exciting, dark and versatile than the previous one. The speed then resumes with ‘Spellcraft’, yet another dark offering from the band, reminiscent of the glorious days of thrash metal when the music still had heavy NWOBHM traces in it. However, it is the following semi-ballad ‘Starfall’ that will definitely grab a lot of attention. This song contains a lot of well-orchestrated chord play harmonized perfectly by one of the catchiest lead hooks an Indian band has ever written, driven on perfectly by a thundering bass/drum low end march. Finally, the album’s 8-minute magnum opus ‘Visions of Dis‘ shows up. The song exemplifies the influence that old-school melodic death metal bands like Dark Tranquillity and In Flames have on the band by essentially being a doom metal song written in that style. The verse riff has a great balance of tremolos and a singular chord to hold those tremolos in place for every bar. The surprise package of the song is its mid-section which turns into a fast arpeggio attack that plays around with the octaves really well. The album then closes with the short acoustic instrumental ‘The Isle of Voices’, a beautiful way to end the album.
Lyrically, the album explores mostly mythological themes, covering everything from Egyptian to Greek and even Biblical mythology. It is not, however, a concept album but just an album with an overall idea to put across. The overall verdict is that this album is easily the best one that the band has put out till date, in terms of songwriting, technique and production. The instruments have been mixed in nearly perfectly. Most heartening is the bass mix which has managed to stay a low throb without which a song would be empty, and yet the ‘clang’ of the strings increases the overall attack of the song as well. It is an album that should be heard by fans of both old-school metal as well as the more recent bands. And while this might run into the danger of overbilling a band, this album could very well be the ‘it’ third album from India, spoken about in the beginning of this article.