German musical virtuoso Hannes Grossmann has already had a very interesting and prolific career in metal. Growing up in a musical family, he began playing the piano at the age of 8 followed soon after by finding his passion in drumming. He got his first professional gig in 2003 by joining the now well-known Necrophagist in its infancy. He played on Epitaph and toured extensively from 2005-2007 before leaving to pursue a business degree. But Hannes was only getting started. He soon joined Obscura and cracked the charts with another album, then took up with Blotted Science in 2010. All the while he performed in various drumfests and even wrote a book on the subject called Extreme Metal Drums. Still hungry, Hannes toured with Hate Eternal and formed Alkaloid, a supergroup that should sound familiar given its critically acclaimed debut having just been released last year.
Now he is proud to present his sophomore album, The Crypts of Sleep. Entirely written, arranged, self-recorded and self-produced at his own Mordor Sounds studio in Veitsbronn, Germany, the project has enlisted the the help of numerous all-stars in the extreme music scene to fill the other roles including Danny Tunker (Alkaloid, Abhorrent, ex-Aborted), Linus Klausenitzer (Obscura, Alkaloid, Noneuclid), Morean (Alkaloid, Dark Fortress, Noneuclid), Christian Muenzner (Spawn of Possession, ex-Obscura, ex-Necrophagist), Fountainhead (ex-Obscura, Despotic), Per Nilsson (Scar Symmetry), and Erik Rutan (ex-Morbid Angel, Hate Eternal).
If you were a fan of The Malkuth Grimoire and noticed the alarming number of shared musicians on this album, I think you will find yourself very much at home. The Crypts of Sleep features many of the elements that made that album such a hit with the progressive metal crowd. The vocals maintain the same approach, oscillating between a trippy BTBAMish clean and gruff death metal growls. Guitars are at times dizzying with solos and sweeps, others lumbering like an enormous beast (see the conclusion of "Hail Satan"). It should go without saying by now that the drumming is phenominal. The man has had years of practice, and you would be hard pressed to find a more eclectic, proficient performance. But musicianship alone a good album does not make. Does this all translate to something worthwhile?
Flippin' yes. For most it should only take the first two tracks to prove that point (my personal favorites). The pacing and variety within these compositions is incredible; so much so that I will make the bold statement that I think this is a stronger album than The Malkuth Grimoire. While I'm sure both albums are conceptual in nature to some degree, I feel this album becomes less bogged down in storytelling and as a result is a more consistent presentation. Some may miss a few of the more avant-garde touches that Alkaloid experimented with, but personally I prefer an album with a strong flow to one that at times goes off the rails to get creative. Besides, The Crypts of Sleep is still far from "uncreative." From the Gothenburg-inspired riffs of "Oceanborn Master" to more Opethean faire, Hannes and his crew infuse plenty of their own trademarks into this release.
I've gone on enough already, so I'll simply close with this: if you haven't pressed play then you hate music and are a bad person. You probably hate puppies too. Buy this album.