Cryptae sit apart from their peers in their approach to mind-bending death metal. Hailing from The Netherlands, the duo released their eponympus demo last year, creating a buzz through underground circles across the globe. The band’s first mini-album, Vestigial, was released this past week to critical praise (including here at LAST RITES) for its raw, punishing twist on abstract death metal. In an ongoing effort to find what inspires such artists to create such unique, abrasuce works, I had the privledge of sitting down with the duo and discussing inspiration, Vestigial, what makes an album an album, and horrific ways in which to leave this mortal coil.
You apparently seek to distance yourself in terms of sound from the current trends in death metal. What inspired your approach?
We don’t really want to distance ourselves from anything, but we want to create death metal from our perspective. There’s a lot of room in between all those drum hits and guitar chords. We like to play with that space. Playing on the beat, behind it or way in front of it. Chopping it up, rearranging things and making something new. In terms of production we think an unpolished approach makes for a more honest and interesting product. Inspiration came from a lot of places. We’ve made a post on our Facebook page about some of the songs that influenced us the most while writing.
Would you even consider Cryptae to be a death metal band?
100%! We consider Cryptae to be a full-fledged death metal band. Take a look at Obituary, Cannibal Corpse and Portal. These bands couldn’t be more different, yet they are all considered to be death metal. Maybe it’s more the power of conveying danger that unites these bands and not so much the tempo, the riffs or the production?
What drew you into fringe music? Why is it important?
We both grew up in the more rural parts of The Netherlands. Boredom and a lack of stimuli will drive a certain percentage of youngsters to the outer edges of the musical realm. We must have found something that made us happy, because it drove us to the music we are making now, 20+ years later.
Vestigial is obviously designed to be experienced as a singular journey. How did this come about in the writing process?
It’s a bit of a start-stop affair with Cryptae. We made the self-titled tape in less than a week, then took some time off. With Vestigial, it took a bit longer. We tried a lot of things after the first EP, but writing a bunch of individual songs didn’t seem to work. Only when zooming out, we realized that we had been working on one giant song. We try to submerge ourselves in the whole creative process. Kees is mainly focussed on the composition, René on the lyrics. We try to structure the final product together, sending each other suggestions and revisions.
Is this something we can expect more of from Cryptae in the future?
Best not to expect anything. The next record might as well be 3 minutes of screaming. We made Vestigial this way and we’re super happy with it. We’ll see what comes next.
The length of Vestigial makes it hard to classify. Nineteen minutes is a bit long of an EP, but not quite an album length in traditional terms. How would you classify it? To you, what makes an album and album, verses an EP or even a demo? Does it matter?
What makes an album is the story it tells. Some take a few minutes to convey their message, some take hours. For us it took about nineteen minutes this time. It just feels like one. Maybe a bit more dense and compact than the typical album, but still an album. If you prefer to call it something else, that’s fine too. The focus should always be on quality, not on quantity.
Vestigial is slated for a vinyl-only release. Does this mean solely physical copies and no digital?
Vestigial will also be released in digital form, available via our Bandcamp page.
How do you think digital media has affected the way artists approach music? How do you think it affects those who consume it? What factors do you consider when choosing release formats?
Media in general has always affected artists. The ‘typical’ album length is 30-40 minutes, due to the constrictions of vinyl. Yet in the nineties, a lot of metal band had 70+ minute albums on CD. So it will probably open some doors for some artists, but we aren’t that occupied with it. With vinyl it’s nice that there’s a lot of space for the artwork.
For the consumers, it’s a different story. Digital media is cheap thanks to Spotify and people are more ‘playlist-minded’ now than ‘album-minded’. The algorithms can be a bit of a problem. At first it seems real handy, but eventually you end up in a bubble. It’s good to actively diversify your musical taste, but that takes some effort.
Cryptae certainly seem to invoke a sense of terror. Something about the sound and construction of the music is unsettling. Is this a conscious move on the part of the band or just how the songs work out?
Not conscious as in: “We want this to sound all brutal and evil”, but unsettling as in consciously challenging the listener. As said before, we immerse ourselves for a short period of time to keep it spontaneous. Maybe it also shows that you can channel whatever you’ll find within when you are willing to dig deep.
While it is certainly agreeable that music can encompass a wide spectrum of emotions, Cryptae seem set on invoking a sense of dread and terror, rather than reflecting on the human response to these emotions. The music is unsettling and abrasive by design. What is it you hope that listeners of Vestigial take away from Cryptae? What do you think draws people to this type of music, and what, if anything, do you think it says about them?
We hope that curiosity will drive people to give Vestigial a spin. It being a one track album forces the listeners to immerse themselves, just like we did while recording it. We think it works best that way, because at a certain point it’s not about production, sound quality or trends anymore, it’s just you and that piece of music. Whether it invokes dread or joy is up to the listener.
On the opposing side of the mirror, what would you consider your reason for creating Cryptae? What are the goals of the project? Is there an endgame scenario in mind? In essence, what is the muse for the band? How does this affect your creative process in terms of writing and recording?
We just really love death metal and will keep loving it for as long as possible. Presently the band is in healthy shape. We are receiving great support from both Sentient Ruin Laboratories as well as Tartarus Records and we even have some dedicated fans. We’re really grateful for all of those things. When it comes to creating new music, we’ll follow our intuition.
Would you rather be trapped in a room full of bugs that slowly chew you to death or have all of the moisture in your body sucked out one molecule at a time?
The bugs. Dehydration is the worst and slow dehydration sounds like a living nightmare.