Shadows in the Crypt
Cryptic Communications

One of the recent forum threads here at Teeth of the Divine tried to define a signature sound or aesthetic for USBM (that’s American black metal for those of you in the dark). I arrived at the conclusion that it’s a meaningless exercise, because the term is so broad. Just as the United States contains a wide range of diverse locales, cultures and attitudes, USBM also covers a wide range of sub-genres.

You’ve got raw and vicious acts like Krieg, Judas Iscariot and Grand Belial’s Key, and genre-challenging bands like Nachtmystium, Krallice, Ludicra and Cobalt. There’s the dense and symphonic sound of Ceremonial Castings and Vesperian Sorrow, the clattery, adventurous attack of Absu or Averse Sefira, or the controversial hipster-bait of ‘Cascadian’ acts like Wolves in the Throne Room and Ash Borer. And then of course, there are the acts that have claimed and clawed out new sonic territory, like the folk-infused Agalloch or the ambient DSBM murk of Leviathan and Xasthur.

And in the middle of all of that, how about the bands that are just playing straight-up black metal? Enter Shadows in the Crypt, who, like this year’s genuinely scary Pact, hail from Pennsylvania (and not too far from where I grew up, oddly enough). This three-piece (recently rebuilt from the ground up by bandleader Lawrence Wallace) plays a thick and muscular version of traditional blasting black metal with much beefier production, but occasionally they work in some galloping thrash or wild and squiggly solos as well. Think old Marduk or Dark Funeral mixed with Slayer or Possessed. It’s a hybrid approach that works well (this year’s Griffar album also had a cool Slayer meets Skeletonwitch sound), though it’s not fully integrated throughout the entire album.

For example, a later track like “Revolutionary Genocidal Madness” leans heavily on the thrash, while final track “Disgracing the Pulpit” sounds more like late 90s melodic black metal. The rest of the album is more traditional black metal with strains of epic atmosphere, but only fleeting touches of the other elements. All the same, the entire album is packed with solid, well-crafted and entertaining songs – standouts include “The Vengeful Gathering,” “The Baphomental Affliction” and the Emperor-like “As Shadows Cover…” Nothing is too bloated or indulgent and you’ll certainly get your money’s worth.

Much as I like the songs, it’s the production that really sells Cryptic Communications for me. It’s just raw enough to be dangerous and authentic, but also beefy and substantial and it delivers a heavier blow than the traditionally brittle and skeletal sound of old. Vocals alternate between a hefty rasp and a deeper growl, although the cleans could use some work – there are some buried choral vocals in “Embracing the Forbidden Arts” that sound like they’ve been fed through some weird flange effect or filter. I can’t tell if they’re supposed to sound like backward-masked possession, or if the effect was meant to hide some other imperfections.

Well-worth checking out for fans of traditional black metal or those looking for new and quality acts in the US scene. Hopefully with enough exposure and attention, Shadows in the Crypt will one day be mentioned alongside all of the aforementioned bands in any USBM discussion.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jordan Itkowitz
September 21st, 2012


  1. Commented by: Guilliame
  2. Commented by: Guilliame

    Krallice, Nachtmystium, Pact, Shadows in the Crypt, and Attake have released some of my favorite music this year.

    USBM is very good. I’d say it’s on par with the rest.

  3. Commented by: Cynicgods

    So yeah, little-witch-voice ruins it for me. Too bad because music’s quite good. Oh well, back to Mgla and Pact for my bm fix.

  4. Commented by: Cynicgods

    My bad, seems like I heard their first one with a different vocalist. Second one is a bit better but not a standout.

  5. Commented by: Guilliame

    Sounds like you’ve given it a real good listening!

  6. Commented by: Cynicgods

    Bad vocalists ruin everything for me. Always have, always will. No need to subject myself to them because the music’s decent (it’s above average black metal with some thrash elements and nothing more). I’d much rather spend my time with the bands that are actually advancing the genres they’re playing. If you love this, knock yourself out, my friend.

  7. Commented by: gabaghoul

    I haven’t heard the first album but I don’t think the vocals on this new one are bad (at least not the rasps or growls).

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