The Dutch death metal duo Cryptae were unearthed sometime in 2017 by Sentient Ruin Laboratories when the Oakland, CA-based label released the band’s self-titled four-song demo tape. Ignoring the door to burst through the wall of the underground death metal scene, Cryptae’s demo felt more like a warning than a demonstration. With their blunted riffs and their industrial (but real) drumming and their all-around parallel-worldliness—just look at the artwork for the demo—Cryptae seem like something more than a two-piece death metal band. Instead of writing songs, it’s like Cryptae are writing weapons.
Guitarist/vocalist Kees Peerdeman and drummer/vocalist René Aquarius followed up with their demo with Vestigail, an mLP that consisted of a single twenty-minute long song. A labyrinthine, Escher-fucked death trip, Vestigial, was, in hindsight, exactly the kind of follow-up you ought to have expected from these two.
Now we stand on the eve of the release of their debut full-length, Nightmare Traversal. Stream this monstrosity right now and pick up a copy on tape, CD and vinyl LP from Sentient Ruin Laboratories. Find an interview with Peerdeman and Aquarius beneath the player.
First of all, what inspired this insanity, Nightmare Traversal?
An undying love for death metal in general and a wish to push the genre forwards in 2020. We love OSDM just as much as the next person, but with Cryptae we just try to distill the essence of death metal and reconstruct it in ways that sound fresh to our ears. You know, mash it up with some more original ideas without losing the genre’s identity and to make people say ‘What the hell?’ just like when they first heard Morbid Angel, Cannibal Corpse or Macabre.
What are the themes we’re dealing with here? Can you give us a little bit of background behind the album, in your own words.
Lyrically, the album is delving into the realm of video games. Specifically, the classic action games from the ‘90s such as Doom, Quake, Blood and Carmageddon. Contrary to genre paradigms, we stripped out all the violence, blood and gore and we zoomed in on the angular level design and the atmosphere of these games, which works in the context of the game itself but is just bizarre and otherworldly when you remove everything else.
How did your last work Vestigial bring us to this point?
Vestigial was its own weird little micro-cosmos. A 20 minute, single-song lo-fi death metal mini album. It was a lot of fun to work on something so lengthy and it came together really spontaneously, but it also made us crave the flexibility of working on shorter individual tracks. It’s a lot easier to put as many weird ideas as possible in a record when it’s not one song that has to have smooth transitions from one section to the next. We also realised that we wanted the next album to sound as heavy and dense as the music we write, production-wise.
What can you tell us about the recording process for Nightmare Traversal?
Well, that was a bit of a challenge. The rough demos were ready at the beginning of the year, then COVID hit. We spent the weeks in partial-lockdown fine-tuning the arrangements through chats and emails, talking about the flow, the tones and the overall atmosphere of the record, trying to get things as streamlined as possible. Furthermore we spent quite some time on figuring out the best track order, so the album feels like a bullet-train passing by at top speed. Our work method has always involved a lot of digital communication, but this was a bit much even for our standards.
What measures were taken to ensure the album came out abominably destructive and as heavy as possible?
We put a lot of time and effort in mixing this album, which was, again, complicated by the COVID-Lockdown, as it prevented us from sitting down in a room together. Everything had to be done remotely and we probably tried 15 totally different mixes before deciding on the final direction of the album. From there on it was iteration upon iteration of fine-tuning. A lengthy and grueling process, but for us the details had to be 100% on-point.
What lies in wait for first-time listeners of Cryptae whose introduction to your sound will be Nightmare Traversal?
We just hope first-time listeners will have a great time with the album. We think it’s our best effort yet.