Vault Excavations vol. 5 : Rediscovering the Crypt of Kerberos demos
Updated: Jun 22, 2020
Crypt of Kerberos were likely one of the most unique bands to ever emerge from Sweden. That's a very bold statement to make considering the vastness of the Swedish scene at the time. With the release of World Of Myths, they became one of the first bands (if not the very first) to effectively fuse death metal and power metal together. A lot of Swedish bands bands would simply release one or two decent releases immediately followed by a shift into death'n'roll territory that often felt forced or devoid of any passion. Crypt Of Kerberos never took the death'n'roll approach. They stayed true until the end, going full prog-power-death instead of resorting to ripping off Entombed's Wolverine Blues and went out with a bang (though they did reunite later on). Like most of you reading this, I originally discovered this band with that record. It is in my opinion, a groundbreaking album that could be described as the spiritual ancestor of most modern technical death metal bands. However, I'm not here to talk only about this record. I want to talk about their early material. See, I've been listening to Crypt of Kerberos for a long time, but I've only familiarized myself with their early material a few mere years ago. Upon rediscovering their demos, I was shocked to realize I was listening to the same band that had released "World Of Myths". You will be too.
After releasing demo recordings under the name of "Macrodex", the band changed their name to Crypt of Kerberos and released a 2-track, 7" EP titled Visions Beyond Darkness which showed true promise and stands to this day as one of the rawest and filthiest productions I've ever heard on a 7" EP. This EP was a definite step-up from the material the band had previously recorded under the name of Macrodex. Crypt Of Kerberos weren't *quite* there yet though, but that would change in a matter of mere months. Enter Crypt Of Kerberos' 1991 demo : A fine display of down-tuned, filthy, primitive death / doom metal in the vein of Bolt Thrower, Autopsy, Demilich, Moondark and Abhorrence. It was this demo that made me fall in love with their early sound and made me grow to love it just as much as the shreddier, more progressive World of Myths. Here is the 1991 demo in all its glorious depravity :
From there, it gets even better. On the SAME year, Crypt of Kerberos put out a second demo, which represented a direct continuation of their 1st 1991 demo released a few months earlier. Talk about being prolific! On this demo, one can clearly notice the remarkably improved musicianship (especially the inspired lead guitar work) over the first 1991 demo, and the inclusion of new musical elements that hints at a very-well done and tasteful shift of musical direction that happened 2 years later. While the first 1991 demo was fantastic, this one is superior in every way to me :
Both of these demos are mandatory for any fans of murky, swampy death metal. It gets EVEN BETTER though. A year later, the band would release a 7" EP that would bridge their early sound and what would come later on their album "World of Myths". Unlike my other posts, this time I have attached a link from something I did not upload myself to further demonstrate my point. Enter Crypt's 7" single "Cyclone of Insanity" : The greatest death metal 7" of all-time next to Spring of Recovery by Adramelech. Here, the production is heavier than ever, and the level of musicianship displayed on this criminally short EP is much higher & more refined than all of the band's previous demos combined. I think the guitarists were not even 18 years old on this EP. Seriously, these guys were fucking monster guitar players at such a young age, it's almost unfair. The lead guitarist's vibrato technique alone puts most modern-day shredders to absolute shame.
Now that we went over the demos, let's get back to talking about "World of Myths" again, because let's be frank here : By now, surely your perception and overall opinion of this album has likely changed now that you've heard the band's earlier output. It did for me. World Of Myths would indeed end up featuring most of the material present of their 2nd 1991 demo and the legendary 7" Cyclone of Insanity single. A few things stand out when comparing the full-length to the demos : First off, the production is considerably less heavier and much less punchier. The guitars were also no longer down-tuned and were recorded with a less-than-appropriate tone configuration for the style, making them sound like they were recorded underwater. I think the producer is to blame for this shift in sound though, and not the band itself. The vocalist also had taken a considerably different approach, favoring low-mid range growls, raspy gothenburg-esque snarls and power metal singing (though I think the lead guitarist handled some of these as well) over the guttural growls heard all over the demos. Those are some...REALLY jarring differences, aren't they? Yet, despite all of this, it still remains a classic. The guitar work is raw yet sublime, the songwriting is cohesive and each song flows seamlessly into the other, the atmospheric and theatrical elements scattered throughout the record are very well presented and executed, giving an aura of mysticism and mystery the band did not have on the demos. Oh and that INSTRUMENTAL TRACK near the end of the record is beyond perfect! The way the band blended so many different genres together whilst retaining their death metal essence despite production issues makes this record a must-own in your cd collection. Yeah nah, it's still an amazing record.
Hearing the band's demos certainly changed my outlook on this record, for better or for worse. On one hand, it makes me wish they had kept the sound they had on these demos. On the other hand it also makes me appreciate the fact that they decided to do their own thing and had the balls to put out a record later on that was so different from the demos. I am glad I discovered these demos though, because it makes me appreciate the band even more for how well-versed and prolific they were in the different spheres of death metal they dabbled into. I hope you enjoyed rediscovering them as much as I did. Please let me know your thoughts in the comment section below because I am curious. Is demo-era Crypt Of Kerberos better, or is Prog-death era Crypt Of Kerberos the peak of the band's career? I am undecided myself, but that's a good thing because it reinforces my initial point that the band never put out a single mediocre release regardless of the style they went with, and stood out from the rest of their scene. Written by Phil Tougas // The Vault
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