Cryptosis – Futuristic SwarmThursday, 8th April 2021
Moving beyond a basic thrash template with their previous act Distillator, Dutch trio Cryptosis ventures into a land of technical, progressive thrash with extreme, traditional, and outside the box influences and methods of delivering their sound. The debut album Bionic Swarm contains aspects that bring to mind the work of Coroner, Demolition Hammer, and Vektor – but with the use of a mellotron added to the normal guitar, bass, and drum instruments, gain a fuller sound that many haven’t heard since the days of Rush. Add in a sci-fit conceptual theme that looks at technology and digital manipulation from the past into the future, and you will quickly discover these gentlemen aim to achieve a style that is innovative and remarkable.
We reached out to all three members through a Skype chat – vocalist/guitarist Laurens Houvast, bassist Frank te Riet, and drummer Marco Prij. You’ll learn everything from the transformation of Distillator into Cryptosis, signing with Century Media, the challenges of the new direction, their impressive video work, and how the mellotron came to be an additional focal point for the sound of the band.
Dead Rhetoric: Cryptosis developed out of another thrash band Distillator that created an EP, two full-lengths, plus a split release with Space Chaser between 2013-2018. What circumstances took place to develop this new act, and where do you see the major shifts in terms of sound and style for this new band?
Frank te Riet: In 2013 we started this band, we were teenagers and young students. We were typical thrash fans of bands like Exodus, Slayer, Metallica, Megadeth. We really wanted to play music that sounds like that. At the time in the Netherlands there weren’t really a lot of bands playing that type of music, we were quite a unique band. When we played live shows, we were always the weird band on the bill – we weren’t playing death metal which was a genre very popular in the Netherlands. When we went on tour and played different countries, Germany, Belgium, France, wherever – we saw that there were a lot of other bands doing the same as we were. We started getting a little more success. In quite a short amount of time, we realized that what we were doing wasn’t that unique anymore. We listened to different music and started developing as musicians. By the time we started writing the third Distillator album, we really got a different mindset. We wanted to find our own sound – I introduced the mellotron to the band, an instrument that was used in the past by bands like The Beatles in the 1960’s.
We have been using the mellotron on the split release with Space Chaser as well. It was pushed into the back of the mix, I hated that. When we started writing this new album, I said to Laurens let’s put this more upfront. Using the mellotron, it’s an extra layer and texture plus a different way of thinking about writing and how to work on a song. We ended up with a different sounding album. Distillator was pretty much 80’s sounding thrash metal. This music isn’t representing that, so it would be best to change our band name. We spoke about that for the past several years as we were writing the album.
This is the perfect time to do it. It was more suitable to the concept of the album, and our sound and the future. In Europe it was a pretty big gamble because a lot of people already know us. I’m happy it turned out pretty well. With a new album and new band, we have a lot of possibilities for the future.
Dead Rhetoric: How did you gain the interest of Century Media – and do you feel that gaining such a prestigious label known for its work over the years in building and breaking various metal acts helps Cryptosis already maintain a certain buzz or level of interest right out of the gate?
Laurens Houvast: We recorded this album Bionic Swarm, and we finished the mix and mastering of the album around February 2020. After we were satisfied we gave the master to our manager. He’s quite known in the European music industry. I think very soon after that, weeks later he got Century Media interested in signing the band. It’s a huge step forward. In the past we released albums and EP’s on much smaller labels, which did a good job. But this is Century Media, who are a part of Sony Entertainment, with a huge distribution and promo network. Century Media gives us a lot of financial means to do stuff that we couldn’t do in the past, for example – the video clip for “Decypher”, the first single we released last year in September as an introduction for the band. The video has got this 3D animation in it, and stuff like this is very expensive.
Its great to be able to get our name out there and promote the music. Hopefully people will like this and I believe Century Media will help us make a great first step for Cryptosis.
Dead Rhetoric: Bionic Swarm is the debut Cryptosis album. How do you feel the overall recording sessions went, were there any surprises, obstacles, or challenges to work through and overcome?
Marco Prij: I think that the main challenge for this album was to get the parts right for us as the guitarist, bassist, and drummer. They are very technical and a big step up from what we were used to in Distillator. It’s way harder to play (the parts) and much harder to prepare for the studio this time around. For the rest, they weren’t big challenges.
te Riet: There were some challenges time-wise. We had been working on it a very long time, we set a deadline to go into the studio. Whenever you are in a creative process, you aren’t thinking about time. At one point, for me personally the deadline was really short. We went, the three of us, ten days in the woods somewhere on a farmland and rehearsed, just straight before we entered the studio. That gave me some room to improve the songs in a more relaxed atmosphere.
Houvast: Yes, for me as well I can agree with Frank on that. This was the first time we did something like this before entering the studio. We created all this pre-production and we had a clear idea of how the songs could be recorded. We really had to rehearse these songs because they were mainly made in the studio and not in the rehearsal room. In these ten days we really focused on the details, we played the songs together and it sounded a little bit different. We put the dots on the i’s, and the results were a lot better because of that.
Dead Rhetoric: Did the lyrical content become what would have been the third record for the previously outlined Distillator trilogy – or did you decide to start fresh with Cryptosis on a newer conceptual storyline?
te Riet: With Distillator we had done three releases, the first one was about freedom in relation to the last one hundred years, the second one was in these days, and the third one, the split album, was about sci-fi. We felt really comfortable with that, and had a lot more to say about this topic to explore. We stayed with that, and we are going to do more of this in the future.
Dead Rhetoric: Considering the complexity of the music, has it been a process to decide when to go full force with the intricacy and technicality and when to dial things back to be more catchy, melodic and memorable?
Houvast: No, I don’t think so. What we did with this album and what we didn’t do with previous albums, when we were still Distillator we focused on heavy metal, thrash metal, these kind of genres. For this album we just let everything loose, we didn’t hold onto any kind of genre and we wrote what came to our minds. I think by doing that we have created an album with a lot of variety, a lot of different songs on there. It has loud songs, soft songs, atmospheric songs, brutal songs – fast, slow and everything in between. This is a result of the method we have created to write these songs.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you also think keeping the album length shorter was more important due to the complexity of the music?
te Riet: There are a lot of details to take in, especially in the first few times you listen to it. If the album is too long, complicated, it doesn’t make much sense in our opinion.
Dead Rhetoric: What can you tell us about the cover art and the process with the artist?
Houvast: We had a briefing with the artist, Eliran Kantor, he has worked with great bands like Havok, Soulfly, Heaven Shall Burn, Testament, My Dying Bride. We love his work, he’s done some sci-fi stuff in the past. We trust him with his skills, that he could make something that was great. We supplied him with the concept – Bionic Swarm is a concept album. We wanted a cover that is representative for all the songs. We supplied the info and he began sketching. He came up with this idea, which we liked instantly. We are really happy with it, it’s an amazing piece of work.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve made some amazing videos to date that fit in with a lot of the futuristic/ sci-fi themes contained in the lyrics. How did you arrive at the choices for clips, how did the shoots go and what are your thoughts on the visual medium for band promotion?
te Riet: Videos and band promotion, you can’t get away from. One cannot exist without the other. In this landscape of digital consumption, you have to do this. We have been lucky to have a friend who is a really good video editor, filmmaker. He helped us to get the right visuals and the right atmosphere in the video for those songs. One other thing that’s really cool is that Century Media said we think all the songs are great, they let us choose the songs we wanted to make the videos. Giving us so much freedom is really great for us, it made us feel even more confident about the album than we already did.
Houvast: You also asked why we choose the singles we chose. The first single we released was “Decypher”. We want to basically introduce Cryptosis to the world, as a new band and we wanted something to be close to our old sound. There are other songs like “Prospect of Immortality” which is a slower song, a lot more progressive. We did think about that, and that’s why that song was released second. We are presenting a very diverse album with a lot of different sounds on there.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you enjoy most about the power trio lineup? Discuss the advantages and disadvantages from your viewpoint…
Prij: I think there are only advantages. It’s great to be in a band with just three people. If you have a band with four or five people, you always have four or five opinions, and you have to fight about what’s going to happen. We take a rule – if two are pro and one is con to doing something, it will happen. It’s an easy thought for ideas, and that’s what I like about a band with only three people.
Dead Rhetoric: How did the split 12” vinyl with Vektor come about – as I’d imagine they are a huge inspiration and influence on the work of Cryptosis?
Houvast: They are an inspiration for us, but for me personally they aren’t our only inspiration. We have toured with them in the past, in 2015 as Distillator we did a European tour together with Angelus Apatrida, who are also on Century Media. We did a three and a half week tour, and it’s one of the greatest tours we’ve ever done. We got to know these guys, we kept in contact over all those years. At some point, before we finished Bionic Swarm, we started talking about releasing something together. One thing led to the other, and the split EP came about and a promotional tour. That’s why we planned a tour around May/June to tour Europe again. For us it’s amazing to be on the same record as Vektor because it’s a really technical band, a great band. They have lyrical themes similar to us. They are more outer space oriented, we are more technology oriented. It’s a very good match, and the response has been great so far. It’s a great promotional tool to introduce the band to the world.
Dead Rhetoric: Speaking of the themes of technology that you incorporate into the lyrics, do you have any worries about technology in the future?
te Riet: Technology can be for good as well as used for bad, you know? People will use it in a good or bad way. We have no intentions with the album to say technology is bad. We think about it a lot. And we want other people to think about it too. We want to create this mindset for people to think about it. We fantasize about this stuff a lot. Sometimes when we are on the road we say what if this or that technology would be possible in the future. A lot of the subjects on our album deal with those ideas. I think it’s hard to say it’s good or bad. It’s just a matter of how people will be using it in the end.
Houvast: There are advantages and disadvantages to technology of course. With this concept album we wanted to highlight some things that could happen in the future. It also touches the dark side of that. Overall the songs are a bit dark in the vibe. I think it’s a great match.
Dead Rhetoric: Where did your interest in the mellotron take place – as well as incorporating it into the Cryptosis musical framework?
te Riet: Since we are a three-piece thrash band, when we would play a concert sometimes it would be a bit hard to get a full sound compared to bands with two guitar players. I was searching for something to fix this. I have been experimenting a lot with different distortion pedals with my bass, but none of that did the trick. I dove a bit more into Rush, and Geddy Lee is playing bass, singing, and playing with his feet. That got me thinking, using synthesizers can help make music very big and epic. I was listening to a lot of music that was more black metal oriented, like Emperor. I thought about looking for a pedal that could emulate this type of sound, and I stumbled upon the mellotron pedal, which was produced by a company called Electro Harmonix. This pedal is so amazing. I dove into this and this sound, and a lot of bands in the 60’s used it but not so much after that. I experimented with it, the first time I brought it to the rehearsal space the other guys were really positive about it.
Instantly it fixed the problem we had with not having a thick enough sound. Laurens playing stereo guitars as well – we are a three-piece band but we have four guitar amps on stage. That was really an eye-opener for us, it changed the sound and the way our vision is towards music.
Dead Rhetoric: What are some of the challenges that Cryptosis has had to face as a band so far – and how do you hope to overcome them?
Houvast: One of the challenges for us was creating a huge live sound as a three-piece. When I play a solo and Frank plays the bass, there’s a huge gap because you don’t hear any rhythm guitars when a guitar solo is played. This is one of the first things people mention as well, why we don’t get a second guitar player in the band. This is also the reason that Frank started looking for an effect to close this gap. I think with the mellotron we have done a nice job while creating a unique sound.
te Riet: I think one of the challenges is also how can we keep this band for the future alive. There is no option to tour these days, so it’s hard as a band to get money and earn a little bit with this band. We are really dependent on the fans buying our music online, supporting us, buying t-shirts – and the world is a strange place right now for bands that used to be very active and for concerts in general. It will be one of the most challenging things ahead of us in the next year and maybe years.
Dead Rhetoric: Name three albums that have had the most impact on your views and impressions for heavy metal – and what was the best concert memory you have, purely from a fan perspective?
Houvast: That’s a really hard question.
te Riet: I think Coroner- Punishment by Decadence, that’s a top album. Maybe not the sound but the mindset is what we have been doing with this album too. There is so much stuff that influences us. We listen to so many genres. I love electronic music, some of the ideas I put in a song like “Prospects of Immortality” but you don’t hear any digital beats. It’s really hard to tell, we are on a subconscious level influenced by so many things.
Houvast: The three albums that made the most impact on me, as a teenager I got introduced to Slayer- Reign in Blood, and the live show. When I saw this I wanted to play fast music. The DVD of Yngwie Malmsteen – Live in Leningrad, it was a guy who could play that fast and precise, it made a huge impact on the way I play guitar solos. The last album in the sense of aggressiveness combined with a lot of other things is Megadeth – Killing Is My Business… and Business Is Good. These three things made a huge impact on me as a guitar player. Just like Frank said, we have a lot of different influences.
As far as a concert that made a huge impression on me. A seated concert of 1,000 people – it was Opeth in the Netherlands, where they played a three-hour show, Ghost Reveries the 25th anniversary. This was really great.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the agenda for Cryptosis over the next twelve months to push this release – and how have you been handling the downtime during this pandemic? Develop any new interests, hobbies, or passions?
te Riet: We are going to do a live concert at the end of April, our album release show where we will play the album in its entirety, front to back. That’s something we are looking forward to and are really busy preparing for that. It will be a unique experience, in the sense we will do some experimental stuff. We have a tour planned in May and June in Europe with Vektor, but things are not looking good at all because so many things have been cancelled with COVID-19. We have to wait until we can get back on the road and then tour as much as possible with this album. In the meantime, we are going back to songwriting and new ideas for our next album.
I didn’t develop any other hobbies during the pandemic. We had so many changes with the band, our band name, and everything that comes with it legally – a webshop, website, photo shoots, recording the video clips. We’ve been busy like crazy.
Houvast: Picking shirt designs, the new label. For the upcoming twelve months we will promote Bionic Swarm to the best ways we find possible. We have a new single coming up in a few weeks that will have a video clip as well. We have summer festivals after the tour with Vektor, and next year already being planned.