Swarming, crushing, encircling, suffocating, ‘Nightmare Traversal’ – the demented debut full-length from eccentric Dutch duo Cryptae – presents 30-odd minutes of deconstructed and re-congregated Death Metal not quite like anything I’ve experienced before. Altarage and Portal are obvious reference points, with a hint of Gorguts and a veritable deluge of improvisation, culminating in spontaneous, free-flowing discharges from the darkest side of the subconscious.
Though murky, distant, abyssal and tantalisingly cryptic, ‘Nightmare Traversal’ is also uncannily immediate and reassuringly familiar, ‘Concrete Inferno’, for example, an observation that drills its way into your mind and instantly seems recognisable, the ensuing ‘Oubliette’ another exercise in ridiculously contagious black murk and deathly doom that is haunting, harrowing yet engaging and absorbing from start to finish.
Cryptae’s innate ability to craft captivating audial insanity that commands the listener’s attention from start to finish is one of their great strengths, an abundance of energy and dynamism – not to mention creativity and superb musicianship – coursing through the seven horrific delusions on ‘Nightmare Traversal’. The songs flow thickly like insatiable lava on a pitch dark night, each as lethal and ominous as its predecessor. Paralysed by fear – and something else – we welcome the portents of impending demise.
Structured in an obstinately unstructured fashion, ‘Nightmare Traversal’ has been decomposed with no regard for rules or conformation, like some architectural enigma, a Death Metal edifice that defies gravity and stands defiantly, challenging logic, moving backwards and forwards at the same time, curveballs and twists lurking throughout – an unpredictable, crazed journey somehow imbued with that feeling that we’ve been here before and revelled in the dread as much then as now.