As the serrated fuzz of the Boss Heavy Metal pedal rips through the speakers in the opening strains of “A Feast for the Grave”, the first track on Cryptborn’s Into the Grasp of the Starving Dead EP, the first thing that comes to mind is Swedish death metal. Cryptborn, however, is a group of Finns… filthy, rotten Finns. Though the guitar tone puts a Swedish veneer on the band’s music, at its core, Into the Grasp of the Starving Dead is murky, putrid Finnish death metal, more akin in spirit to the doom/death of Hooded Menace and early Amorphis, when the latter was still privileged to be evil.
In terms of musicianship and songcraft, Cryptborn’s performance on the EP is merely average: sparse soloing, simple arrangements, and the same tremolo riffing you’ve heard ten thousand times before, but the band makes it work. Cryptborn’s exquisitely rotten guitar tone, combined with cavernous vocals and ponderous pacing, conjures up a fetid sonic miasma that sucks you in (to the grasp of the starving dead, I suppose) and suffocates you. It’s not rocket science, but it is oppressively heavy death metal.
Oppressive though its music might be, Cryptborn does not run its songs into the ground: Three of the tracks on Into the Grasp of the Starving Dead are under three minutes, and the longest is a little over five minutes. And while the slow and steady approach ultimately rules the day, just like a pack of zombies suddenly develops preternatural quickness in the presence of living flesh, Cryptborn is prone to it’s own deadly bursts of speed, which keeps the creeping horror from devolving into drudgery.
At this point, the world needs another old-school death metal act employing the Sunlight sound like it needs another thrash band. With Into the Grasp of the Starving Dead, however, Cryptborn manages to craft music that rises above its monotonous aesthetics — if not to greatness, then certainly to pretty-damn-goodness.