Cryptic Fog: Staring Through The Veil and More
It’s been some eight years since Cryptic Fog last released music, with their former (and only) other official release being a barely-distributed album entitled Path of the Withering Moon from way back in 2009. It was put on Bandcamp five years later and never received a physical release.
Now, finally, the band comes back with a masterful followup, Staring Through The Veil, to be released towards the end of October on longtime extreme metal stalwart label Blood Harvest Records.
In the long years in between their debut and the new album, the band’s original lineup dwindled away, leaving behind only the strong core of guitarist/bassist Dave Bennett and a slightly newer recruit, a prolific drummer/vocalist named Dan Klein. Dan joined on as an integral part of the band four or so years ago, and was a natural choice after his work producing the first album; as a point of interest, Dan makes a living as a producer full time at his studio, Iron Hand Audio.
Though Dave hasn’t released anything since that first Cryptic Fog album, he’s kept busy with the band and with a death/doom project that he started with Dan, with a first release coming soon. The other half of the duo has earned himself a bigger name in recent years, as Dan’s own powerful musical history has gained him a cult following cemented by his works as a producer as well as accomplished drumming on two other full length albums released this year alone (Invasion’s Destroyer of Mankind, a return after seven years from longtime Indiana death metal veterans, and the much-lauded third Fin album, Arrows Of A Dying Age) as well as on several other albums from the past decade, both with full bands and works that he recorded entirely solo.
Many bands (particularly ones as ambitious as Cryptic Fog) need a larger core of musicians to temper unreasonable or uncomfortably limited songwriting choices, but for this one, the lineup reduction has proven to be an excellent move. Dan’s scorching vocals and relentless drumming provide the perfect backdrop for Bennett’s furious riffs, breathing life into the project and tying it together. The music itself is as layered and complex as anything else to come out this year, combining a firm background in traditionally played death metal with a strangeness that comes from years of extreme metal development and the twisted minds of the band members themselves.
A lot of the consistency of the album comes from Dave’s composition, as nearly all of the music was composed by the guitar wizard of the band, while Dan’s own contributions of arranging and the rhythmic assaults of his drums and vocals guarantee a coherency to the madness that is Staring Through The Veil. The end result, despite a massive amount of seemingly disparate influences, works perfectly. At all times the album sounds purely like Cryptic Fog rather than like a derivation of their influences; for all that the band doesn’t attempt to hide the gods that they build the foundation of their music on, they never feel imitative, always shifting from idea to idea competently in a way that feels natural.
From the labyrinthine slither of Demilich to the rapid fire swirling chord changes that Trey Azagthoth perfected in the ‘80s to bouncing thrash riffs to chugging sections straight from Left Hand Path and even to the massive clean leads of Cynic, the Cryptic Fog boys make it obvious across the forty-six minute album that they’re not afraid of merging their influences or of bouncing across both sides of the Atlantic. Angular black metal influenced riffs fearlessly and effortlessly intertwine with pounding primordial death metal, and changes from blazing, high-BPM madness to bits of slower, writhing melody stay stuck your head long after the album is actually shut off; as wildly ambitious as it is successful, the new album fills a bit of a niche for everyone as it bounces seamlessly between the ferocity of Immolation to the groove of early Suffocation or the hatred of Angelcorpse, and even some of the grandiose leads and melody of Mercyful Fate. Vocals howling from an ancient abyss ground out the strangest symptoms and show a base of firm death metal traditionalism when the riffs deviate from it, completing the package.
Though most of the music is fast rather than slow, it takes leave from a breakneck pace often enough to add a sense of sinister gravitas, and varied approaches to the faster sections both rhythmically and percussively keep even the fastest parts from blending together (a problem that I have with a lot of the most swirling and chaotic albums; metal is about riffs, and if they don’t blend together, why listen?). From start to finish, the album ties together wonderfully; I don’t want to spoil anything, in particular, but there are some goddamn magical points scattered throughout the album, right up until the last minute of the final song.
As a final note, though Cryptic Fog appears to have been inactive since the last album, Staring Through The Veil actually marks the second release with this lineup; the band wrote and recorded a since-unreleased EP years prior, with a final release date yet to come. On the topic of its original shelving, I’m told that Cryptic Fog “couldn’t get any labels to bite at the time…[and] didn’t really have the funds to release it ourselves,” but Dan assures me that there are plans to destroy us with what I’m promised is a fast, brutal release, which will feature the same lineup as on the new album.
Until then, Cryptic Fog are back and stronger than ever, ready to captivate us with all-new material as they gear up to unleash themselves on the world at large, finally with the strong label support that they deserve- the new album is definitely a victory for Cryptic Fog, and another great addition to Blood Harvest’s already stellar roster. In particular, if you liked Suffering Hour’s debut from earlier this year (or wished it was a bit more rooted in Necrophobic and Deicide), don’t miss Staring Through The Veil.
Photos via Blood Harvest Records.