Cryptopsy – The Suffering ContinuesSunday, 28th October 2018
Always a force to be reckoned with within the extreme metal scene, Cryptopsy has often decided to go their own route instead of following the crowd, or sure-fire successes. Their discography, compared to many death metal bands at their veteran status, is more diverse than you may remember. Though in recent years, it seems they have found their calling from a stylistic perspective. They released a 4 song EP in 2015 with The Book of Suffering: Tome I, which seemed to pool the band’s collective successes over the years and add some new flavors and was a much lauded release in the scene.
Three years later, they are back with Tome II. Everything that made the first EP a winner is back and just as strong. While it has been three years, they’ve kept themselves busy in doing much more touring than in previous years. We caught up with vocalist Matt McGachy prior to the EP’s release, who gave us some honest insight into the band and what they have been up to since Tome I. We also discuss Cryptopsy’s changes (and McGachy’s own) as well as what extreme means from Cryptopsy’s perspective.
Dead Rhetoric: It’s been 3 years since the last EP. Did anything hold you up or was it just the touring schedule?
Matt McGachy: It was really the touring. Most of the material written for Tome II was completed in 2016, and then in 2017 we did almost 100 gigs, which for Cryptopsy is a lot of gigs. When we are on tour, we are really focused on performing that material really tight and the way it should be. On top of that, we did None So Vile in its entirety. For most of the band, that was new to us so we had to learn it and practice it to get it right, and give it the representation that it deserved.
Dead Rhetoric: Was it daunting to play all of None So Vile, because as you said, most of the current Cryptopsy line-up was new to the material?
McGachy: Yes and no, because a typical Cryptopsy set in my time with the band, always includes at least 4-5 None So Vile songs. I only had to learn like 2-3 songs. But in learning those songs, I forced myself to go back and relearn [the others]. You get into habits when you perform music, and you think that you are performing it the way you should be, but it doesn’t end up being that way. Especially with Lord Worm, because he doesn’t necessarily sing on normal times, and I am very square in my thinking and time. Mainly, I fall on the beat but he doesn’t all of the time. I had to force myself, and tried to force myself – I don’t know if I actually succeeded – while learning those three tunes that I didn’t know, I relearned the rest of the songs. I wanted to know all the lyrics because I learned the songs but I was more focused on the tone and the grunting.
As I have evolved throughout the years in Cryptopsy, in the past few years I have put a lot of emphasis on actually saying words during the Lord Worm songs. With Mike DiSalvo, I always said words because it’s a part of the delivery. It was interesting, fun, and daunting always – Lord Worm is an entity and death metal icon. I always try to do my best and give my best performances. At the end of the day, I’m never perfectly satisfied. I think I could be better but that’s that most good musicians strive for. I know Chris Donaldson is always daunted by learning Jon [Levasseur]’s solos because it’s like a person’s thumbprint. The phrasing of it is always different to grasp how another person thinks, so I know he always thinks its daunting too.
Dead Rhetoric: Is there any sort of connection to the first Tome with Tome II, either lyrically or conceptually?
McGachy: I have an umbrella concept that is running through these two EPs and I have it expanded for if we do a Tome III. The umbrella concept is all about suffering. The first Tome is all about people who have caused suffering. I was focused a lot on Canadian content, because I like to find occult stories or strange happenstances; murders that have happened in Canada, and that all spurred from the self-titled and into Tome I because there was a much of weird shit that just kept coming out. Like the dude that killed a bunch of people in Montreal and mailed pieces of their bodies all around. He wasn’t sentenced to death – he will eventually get off. Same thing with the guy that “Detritus” is about – a local Quebec guy who killed his kids and then claimed insanity and will be out of jail in a few years at this point, which is crazy to me. There was a lot of things like that – Karla Homolka, a girl from Quebec who murdered a bunch of people with her boyfriend and she is out of jail now. So Tome I was all about people who have caused suffering.
Tome II is all about people who have escaped suffering. People that were in horrible situations and found one way or another to escape it. One of them is about a girl who was kidnapped at a young age, and held in captivity for 9 years and eventually she escaped from her captor. He killed himself, and she went back and bought the house that she was held captive in for so many years. It’s so fucked up. But I also stepped away from Canada. There is still one about a Canadian couple that I’m not tied to it anymore. Tome III is going to be about people who have witnessed suffering. So I like to have broad spectrum in which I can find interesting stories that I can look at from different angles. Whether it’s the victim’s point of view or someone that is causing it, or that person’s mother. I like to fuck around with those lyrical angles. Then making it not plain on paper what I am saying, so trying to be crafty with it at the same time.
Dead Rhetoric: So are you more inspired then by what you see in reality, rather than just making up something completely fictional?
McGachy: I am very inspired by reality. There’s nothing more horrible than human beings [laughs] being horrible to themselves and other people. As most death metal people tend to be, I tend to be a really nice guy. I can make up a whole bunch of stuff but I like to have something grounded in reality to expand upon and tickle my imagination.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you feel is the benefit of this short EP releases?
McGachy: In theory, it’s supposed to take us less time to write it. It was a big motivator when we started it. We wanted to put out more music more often, so that we could tour more frequently. That’s really our overall goal. It’s not what happened, but we ended up touring for Tome I quite a bit, so we are content with that. We are in an age, where we are an independent band, and in the digital streaming age you can’t really make money selling cds anymore. We want to be on the road, where we can be in contact with our fans and communicate with them that way. The more music that we put out, the easier it is for a booking agent to get us a tour, so it’s to keep the ball rolling.
Personally thought, I don’t like when bands do EPs. As a fan of a band, it annoys me. It’s over too quickly. I’m into post-metal with like 9-minute songs. An EP isn’t an experience that I love.
Dead Rhetoric: On the one hand though, from my perspective at least, less than 20-minutes of an extreme metal release is almost perfect. You can just go completely balls-out and you don’t have to worry about the listener being fatigued at the end.
McGachy: That’s 100% true. That’s why we have concerns about doing another 20-minute EP. In the end, we will release The Book of Suffering in its entirety. A 12-song Cryptopsy album is quite a daunting task to sit down and listen to from start to finish without your ears becoming flubber. It’s like a Beneath the Massacre record. Every song on its own is amazing, but if you listen to too many in a row, it becomes blah almost.
Dead Rhetoric: I know the last EP was done through crowdfunding, which you have stated wasn’t going to happen again, partly because it was a stressful experience. Did the lack of it make this release less stressful?
McGachy: It was something that we didn’t have to handle, which saves some creative mindspace for other projects, which is a relief. Crowdfunding, at the time, was hit or miss for bands. I don’t consider ours a complete failure. We didn’t hit our goal, but we did quite well. There’s a whole lot of confusion too – people think we did the crowdfunding for all three Tomes, but it was just for Tome I. This time around, we did almost a full 2-month pre-order so that we had the finances to print and ship to the people that pre-ordered so we are going to move forward like that.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve been in the band for over a decade now. What keeps Cryptopsy a force within death metal?
McGachy: We are never satisfied. We are constantly pushing our boundaries. Flo [Mounier] has never sat back on his laurels and decided to stop trying to get better. He’s constantly pushing himself to play more ergonomically or more fluidly, with less effort but still keeping intensity and powerful hitting. He’s not a soft hitter like a lot of the super drummers out there nowadays. He beats the fuck out of the kit all the time.
Chris Donaldson is equally insane and extremely tough on himself when it comes to writing new material. When we sit down to write material now, he has to be extremely drunk. That’s how Cryptopsy writes music. He can’t write music sober because his internal judgement level is too high. He’ll say it will suck and won’t even try it. So we sit down in a room together and we get extremely inebriated and hammer out riffs on a computer. We wake up the next day, and somethings stick and some things don’t. But most of the time they do. There are some funny happenstances that occur in those sessions. We call those sessions ‘Destroying Our Health’ [laughs]. But we are never satisfied, and it’s always a melting point of where everyone is at that time.
If you look through all of the eras of Cryptopsy, the records are always a little bit different. They could have just kept putting out None So Vile but they didn’t. Everyone was happy with None So Vile. No disrespect to Cannibal Corpse, but they put out a similar record frequently. I love it – but Cryptopsy back in the day wanted more. They wanted to challenge themselves to be not only faster, but more technical and bring in more interesting musical traps. It’s something we have retained to this day. Chris always strives to write in the mindframe of Jon, out of respect – Whisper Supremacy is Chris’ favorite Cryptopsy record, with a mixture of None So Vile.
But now we aren’t going to go out into left field and write something that doesn’t make sense for Cryptopsy. We tried it on The Unspoken King and we quickly learned that we know what Cryptopsy needs to sound like. We can bring in little spices here and there, but we know that the Whisper Supremacy insane technicality with those awesome None So Vile grooves and those melodic guitar verse riffs, without them sounding too much like The Black Dahlia Murder, is what we strive to do.
Dead Rhetoric: I’ve always been in that group that loved Whisper Supremacy. I would say it’s my favorite album overall as well.
McGachy: It’s hard – it came out right after None So Vile and Lord Worm, and it was really different [laughs]. People must have been pissed, but it was also a big trampoline step for the market of the band. They were signed to Century Media at that point, and they got a lot of exposure. The first record for most people may have even been Whisper Supremacy, and then they went backwards and heard None So Vile. They must have been like, “Wow, what is this?” Cryptopsy has always been a polarizing band.
Dead Rhetoric: Like we said, you have been in the band for over a decade. How do you feel you’ve changed or grown in that time?
McGachy: At the beginning, I will admit it. I wasn’t a fan of the band when I joined. It wasn’t that amazing story that everyone wants to hear, like Lord Worm hand-picked me. It’s not that. I was in the right place at the right time. Chris was recording my band. The band [Cryptopsy] wanted to do something different. Chris shows them what he was recording at that time, as he still does now in the band. Flo started getting some ideas with Eric [Langlois] about having some clean vocals on the album and I happen to be able to sing and scream. It made sense to them. I tried my best when I did The Unspoken King. I really tried to scream as low and brutal as I could. I am absolutely not a deathcore vocalist, as much as everyone calls me that. I don’t listen to deathcore – I don’t understand that.
Over the years, I’ve put a lot of work in. I’ve had some great mentors, either being on tours or dudes who have had past time in Cryptopsy, and a lot of work in the jam room just screaming. Trying to get my voice to where a Cryptopsy vocalist’s voice needs to be. It’s been a lot of work – touring with None So Vile helped me to get a certain tone and rhythmic patterns that are interesting, which I’ve dropped on the new EP. Just really trying to eat my words and truly say them, and not trying to sound like Lord Worm. Trying to sound like me, but brutal. But it’s always a work in progress [laughs].
Dead Rhetoric: With Flo being the only original member left, do you feel his drumming is one of the major characteristics of Cryptospy?
McGachy: Absolutely, and that’s one of the reasons it has such an important place in the mix. If you listen to our mixes versus other band’s mixes, the drums are extremely present. It doesn’t bury everything, but definitely more present than in other mixes. He has a signature style of playing and I know that Chris tries to write stuff a la Jon Levasseur, and Oli [Pinard] tries to includes some funky pops and stuff to mimic previous bass playing, but we all add something special to it. But yes, Flo is a legendary drummer, and I’m lucky to have been involved in a project with such an influential player. He’s done different styles of metal drumming – the None So Vile drumming, and then the Whisper Supremacy/And Then You’ll Beg drumming is even crazier. It’s like two different eras of death metal. He’s such a fucking prolific player.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you feel that Cryptopsy has learned from becoming label-less and going the independent route?
McGachy: It’s a lot of fucking work. Record labels do a lot for bands. We are still learning. We are never perfect or where we want to be with the band. We have meetings all the time with what we should be doing, and what we are missing because we are not on a label – what opportunities we are not getting because we are not on labels. But everything that a label does is something that someone in the band has to do, or we have to outsource it to someone else that fits inside our independent band budget.
We have hired a publicist, we have a manager and booking agents in different territories. All of the online presence is all the band. We are trying our best, but we aren’t opposed to being on a label at all. We have not received the best deals. We are actually licensing Tome II through Hammerheart Records in Europe. So we aren’t against it, but it has to be the right deal. In an era where you don’t make any money from music anymore, it’s hard to get the right deal without giving up pieces that we will never give up.
Dead Rhetoric: What parts of Cryptopsy define its extremity?
McGachy: The extreme part that represents Cryptopsy is the speed of the riffs. The aggressiveness and harshness of the vocals. The lyrical content is dark, ominous, and disturbing. The playing is extremely technical. It’s constantly thinking outside of the box.
Dead Rhetoric: The EP comes out at the end of the month and there is an upcoming European tour. Any other plans at the moment?
McGachy: The European tour with Aborted, Benighted, and Cytotoxin in November. In December, we are in the UK with Aborted, Ingested, and Unfathomable Ruination. The week after we come home, we play Montreal and do a cd/EP launch there and two other shows. Then we have the Netherlands Death Fest next May. There are some things in the works for February, and fingers crossed, something amazing in the states over the summer.
Dead Rhetoric: It does seem like you guys have really picked things up on the touring end.
McGachy: We just signed with Continental Touring USA so that’s something that is really helpful. We were working with them, but now we’ve signed with them. I’m stoked to be a part of that, and they are one of the top booking agents right now. I want to be a part of something big.
On a side note, I’m launching my new podcast, which is called Vox & Hops. It has in-depth conversations with metal musicians about their lives, and craft beer. Up here in Montreal, the craft beer scene is completely amazing. There are so many unbelievable beers and breweries and I want to share it with the world. I make these amazing friends on tour, and I meet up with them when they come through and I give them a great beer or we go to a brewpub and we sit down and chat for about an hour.