(Grant Skelton reviews the new EP by Kentucky’s Cryptic Hymn.)
Paducah, Kentucky’s Cryptic Hymn formed in 2014. In January, they released a demo for the song “Revel In Disgust.” That song now appears on Gateways, the band’s first official release.
Earlier this year (here), I wrote that the strength of an EP is that a band has no room for mediocrity. Since EPs offer a brief taste of what a band has to offer, every song needs to be memorable. Cryptic Hymn’s Gateways delivers five tracks of superior blackened death ‘n’ roll (or black ‘n’ roll if you prefer). The tracks vary enough to show that Cryptic Hymn are certainly capable of experimenting with progressive melodies. Notwithstanding, the tracks do not diverge from the soul of the band’s sound to the point of being unfamiliar.
In August, the band dropped the song “Nazgul.” I described it as “a darkened, riveting gallop that’s just as morose and loathsome as the creatures for which the song is named. The track’s second half intrigues with proggy bass plucks and a fret-board-fondling solo.” I stand by those words. “Nazgul” does not tarry in introducing the EP. Rather than building to a crescendo, Cryptic Hymn instantly smite the listener with their scorching riffs and charred vocals.
“Revel In Disgust” should be enthralling concert-goers by now. This song encompasses Cryptic Hymn in a tidy little package — provided that package has been incinerated beforehand. This is the tune to play someone who is new to the band. “Revel In Disgust” has a contagious, viral bounce. Once it infects the mind, it is not easily cured.
Track 3, “Garden Of Flesh,” is where Gateways really gets interesting. First of all, the chorus contains enough hooks to make a Cenobite uncomfortable. Then, at about 2:20, bassist Josh Mumford plucks his way through a jazzy bass solo to later introduce extended guitar soliloquies from Dave Palenske and Nathaniel Vowell. Drummer Jon Grace showcases diverse fills and changes in tempo around which the band construct their progressive elements in this song. There is a technical bent in this song that is balanced well by catchy songwriting.
“Carry The Fire” is a special song because of its subject matter. Its lyrics focus on Cormac McCarthy’s novel The Road. (By the way, if you haven’t seen the movie with Viggo Mortensen and Charlize Theron, check that out. Definitely worth your time.). In a postapocalyptic wasteland, a father guides his son across what’s left of America. They confront death, starvation, nihilism, and even cannibals. Thematically, McCarthy’s work yields itself well to metal lyrics.
For example, “Carry The Fire” makes use of one of The Road’s greatest lines of dialogue. The Man says of his son, the Boy, “if he is not the word of God God never spoke.” As a Dad, not to mention a fan of McCarthy’s fiction, I appreciated that a band included this kind of bleak, albeit captivating, story for their lyrical inspiration.
“What Lies Beyond The Wall” opens with a dreamy, ethereal serenade that shifts abruptly into meaty, threatening riffs. From what I gather, the band are known to open their sets with this song, and it isn’t hard to see why. Here, Cryptic Hymn cut the brake line and accelerate directly over the proverbial cliff. This song is a punchy, thrashy anthem that closes the album as brusquely as it began.
Gateways is a finely-brewed death metal broth. It offers all of the essential ingredients, and also takes liberties with introducing some appetizing proggy bits. I wouldn’t mind seeing the band flex their progressive muscle a bit more on their follow-up to this EP. Hopefully, said follow-up will be a full-length album.
Gateways is out now. Stream it below on Bandcamp. Purchase it for only $5 — and explore related merch at the first link below.