After the dissolution of post-hardcore heavies These Arms Are Snakes, frontman Steve Snere seemed determined to find new depths to mine. Along with visual artist Nick Bartoletti and electronic musician Bryce Brown, the experimentation process led Snere to a chaotic industrial sound, where hip-hop-inspired beats and manic goth howling collide. Putting Shabazz Palaces producer Erik Blood behind the boards for their self-titled debut added some extra darkwave eclecticism, and the trio known as Crypts came away with an album with a compellingly vast array of reference points.
While Nine Inch Nails’ large, dark shadow looms heavily over much of Crypts, but to call this team mere Trent Reznor acolytes would be a disservice to their inventive blend of sounds. The simple, clap-along haunted house party beat and thrumming synths of “Sleazy” recall early Liars, but everything is a little more tensely wound, building to a scorched earth break. The slouchy sensuality of “Bloods”, on the other hand, works closer to a world where Dan Boeckner sings about graveyards over a Zola Jesus production.
Brown’s sub-bass drop and square-wave flurries on “Fancy” are escalated by Snere’s hardcore howl, making for a track fit for a slasher chase scene. “I feel so fancy/ throw this round my skull/ I’ll be better,” he sighs in a rare moment of quiet, soon to be re-engulfed by the mire, minimal hip-hop percussion buried somewhere under layers of fazing synths. The twitchy percussion and insistent electro-waves of “Territories” push along like tides, building on a focused pop structure. Snere’s muffled vocals sound like he borrowed Lightning Bolt drummer Brian Chippendale’s wrestling mask microphone, especially when buried this deep amidst intense rhythmic pulses.
Rather than dig back into the familiar tropes of guitar based rock, Snere found a new paradigm to explore. Luckily, he seems to be just as comfortable doing so here as he did with These Arms Are Snakes, finding the same rampant catharsis that he did in hardcore. While Crypts haven’t invented a new genre, they’ve collage-d together a framework from which to deliver their intensely dramatic punches to the gut.
Essential Tracks: “Fancy”, “Territories”