Kryptos – Coils Of Apollyon (2012)

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Coils Of Apollyon is perhaps the first Kryptos album to communicate an urgent need to thrill while maintaining a semi-balanced state of structure on a micro and a holistic album-wide scale. Gone is much of the meandering songwriting that plagued their earlier efforts, replaced with a riff-heavy and intensely melodic approach that teeters nervously on the edge of melancholic nostalgia without quite lapsing into schmaltz. Harshly croaked vocals notwithstanding, the heart of this outfit’s sound has always been old heavy metal; a consummate doppelganger for Murray-Smith exploits of years past, Kryptos unabashedly lift from the Iron Maiden playbook, constructing elaborate twin guitar harmonies and solos over a speed metal framework reminiscent of the eighties.

Kinks persist, however, primarily in the way parts segue into each other. Course correcting from an earlier tendency to linger aimlessly, Kryptos now veer too sharply in the opposite direction, running through a wide range of riffs at a fair rate of turnover but at times not investing sufficient time and thought in introducing them and laying appropriate bridges. A generally monochromatic hue to string attack and percussion renders the faster sections somewhat one dimensional while the persistent guitar harmonies and their frothy nature brighten the palette by a few degrees, depriving these songs of the dark appeal that their esoteric subject matter would suggest.

But the more pertinent question with respect to Coils Of Apollyon is whether there is need and space for such a reverential, orthodox interpretation of an earlier style of heavy metal. Kryptos aren’t innovators in the slightest; vast chunks of their repertoire make for a fun “place that part” game, but they are also developing an idiosyncratic identity of their own, cobbled together as it may be from readily identifiable elements. More importantly, however, there is no strain of cynicism detectable in their music, and one gets the feeling that these are musicians playing the kind of music they like listening to.  Artists don’t owe a tithe to fans, or to some misplaced, philantropic notion of expanding genre frontiers; if the muse that calls them calls loud enough and calls often enough, and if intentions aren’t compromised by ulterior considerations, a band is fully justified in walking trails once covered by far more vaunted feet. Coils Of Apollyon is an imperfect and a derivative album, but for all that an entirely sincere one too.

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