Star Wars and the Dark Side seem like a perfect fit for death and black metal, yet I can’t think of too many instances where a band has focused solely on it besides Seattle’s Hoth. Enter Atlanta’s Ecryptus, who has been doing just that since back in 2001. Between 2004 and 2008 the group released three releases before going on an extended hiatus for a decade, at which point Mike Michalski assembled a new lineup to bring Ecryptus’ heavy hitting brutal and blackened death metal back to life. This brings us to Kyr'am Beskar, which appropriately means death metal in Mandalorian and offers up four tracks filled with old-school brutal grooves and some newer sounding technical and blackened influences.
“Cauterized Saber Wound Massacre” opens with a lengthy sample from Episode II: Attack of the Clones, following that up with extremely dense and heavy blasting that brings quite a few older American brutal and traditional death metal bands to mind. If you compare the sound on Kyr'am Beskar with 2008’s Astral Crusades the difference is night and day, as here the group comes through with considerably more polish and weight that makes each drum blast and guitar riff feel immense. While the extremely low chugging and blasting might lead you to believe that you’re in for brutal death metal from beginning to end, Ecryptus does pull in other influences from across the death metal spectrum on each of these songs with some leads bringing in a bit more technical death metal while others have a blackened edge. Considering how many bands with any kind of sci-fi theme lean on sweeping technicality or soaring melodies, the move here between the brutality and spacey elements works to their advantage. There is room for them to take it further though, as even on a shorter release like this it felt like Ecryptus was starting to fall into a bit of a pattern with the melodies often leading into a solo and then back to the brutal parts. “Compulsion to Disintegrate” does shake things up a bit with some groovier drums in the middle, but it still feels like the band could vary up their attack more in order to better differentiate one song from the next.
Ecryptus has two of their three members contribute vocals throughout Kyr'am Beskar, which gives a mix of guttural growls and higher screams/shrieks. This is another area where the band benefits from the boosted production values compared to their past material, as both of the pitches seem to tower above the recording with a presence that’s appropriate for the Dark Side. There’s quite a bit of power present from both vocalists, and the way that the pitches combine and alternate on many of the tracks reminds me of Cryptopsy. As mentioned earlier, the EP opens with a lengthy sample from Episode II: Attack of the Clones and there’s one other sample on “Compulsion to Disintegrate” from Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. I appreciate that there’s a bit of space between these as I’m personally not crazy when bands go too crazy with clips, but it works here. It’s possible Ecryptus may have to reign these in if they start to pick up additional traction though, as I’d hate to see them run afoul of the Disney copyright empire.
The “Rancorous” single in 2018 may have been the first new material from Ecryptus in a decade, but this EP feels like a true reintroduction of the band. There is still room for them to further vary up how they’re moving between old-school/brutal death metal and the blackened/technical styles, but the performances here are razor sharp and these tracks have proven to be fun and crushing in equal capacity. I’m interested to see how these guys can shake things up and further refine their approach on another full length, but for now they seem to be doing the Dark Side justice and still have enough to appeal to death metal fans whether you’re huge into Star Wars or not. Kyr'am Beskar is available from SBDC Records.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg
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