In continuing with their brutal technical death metal resurgence as if 2008's The Unspoken King never happened (their best decision in the eyes of their fans since the one to actually expect fans to warmly embrace The Unspoken King in the first place), Canada's Cryptopsy have returned once more. Following their widely accepted return-to-force self-titled effort in 2012, as well as the poorly received The Best of Us Bleed compilation later that very year, we are given a brand new four song EP entitled The Book of Sufferings - Tome 1. The now four-piece entity, having lost both guitarist Youri Raymond and his replacement Konrad Rossa in 2013, took to the independent marketing route with this new effort, issuing it through the group's own official Bandcamp account later this October in CD format, shirt bundles, as well as digital availability. But does this short new creation stand as one worth shelling out for, or is it actually a step backward for the intricate quartet?

Well, if you're a fan of anything Cryptopsty has unleashed outside of the album that no one dare speak of, The Book of Suffering - Tome 1 actually stands as a nice reminder of the group's strengths, not to mention a solid follow-up to 2012's Cryptopsy. This time there's a stronger bass presence all around, leaving the complex guitar work engulfed in lower tuned bass chords that give it the necessary blunt edge that is required given how crisp the effort is. While a digital output is never a bad thing, it does leave some of the precision to feel a bit like the group treading into the deathcore territory once more, which is exactly where "Framed by Blood" stands. While the drumming on it is fantastic, you can't help but feel an odd mixture of bands like Suicide Silence or Whitechapel, right down to a brief bass drop that literally drops the bass out of the mix, thrust into more of a The Black Dahlia Murder world full of grim, albeit tightly executed melodies and timing signatures, and even what sounds like a random explosion of mathcore intensity approaching two minutes in. That said, the performance isn't bad, though far from the best this effort has to offer.

For example, "Detritus (The One They Kept)" is a furious assault that perfectly matches the "sounds from hell" audio clip narrative that kicks off the recording like an early Deicide album. The down-tuned bass presence forces itself upon the listener by making the varying complexities of the guitar chords and drum patterns all the more hostile, latching right on your throat and attempting to tear your face right off as it hammers your skull right into quite the abrasive brick wall during the groove-oriented passages. The return to the hellish noises that started the track as a bridge into the brutal slam about two-and-a-half minutes in also makes for a punishing turn that allows the performance a chance to naturally build itself back up from the ground, which the group easily accomplishes to wrap the song up with.

The rest of this release is about what you come to expect from the fine folk of Cryptopsy. "The Knife, The Head and What Remains" is a grim opus of horror and musical dismemberment. Complex chord progressions litter the performance, as does a brief nightmarish guitar solo, on par with the delivery of Origin. The horror themed concoction offers little reprieve once it starts following the roughly fifteen second long eerie guitar introduction, only picking up in tension and vile nature the deeper in your go. And then there's "Halothane Glow", which is another that does blend together some mathcore-grade riff work, blast beats, and even a Meshuggah-like sense of aggression at times, such as around a minute in.

But, the one thing The Book of Suffering - Tome 1 really has going for it is the intensity behind the music and vocals. There's rarely a moment among these four tracks that ever lets you catch your breath, pummeling you every second it has the opportunity to with nightmarish aural landscapes and horror-themed brutality. It's impossible to stand there and claim Cryptopsy haven't tightened as a group since their self-titled effort, and it's great to see the band continue to grow and nurture the brand of technical brutality that made them a death metal household name in the first place. However, there's no denying "Framed by Blood" does put a small shadow of fear in long term fans that the deathcore side of the group's experimentation may not be entirely dismissed. That said, The Book of Suffering - Tome 1 stands as the sort of outing we've come to expect the great Cryptopsy to turn out, and, as a whole, it doesn't disappoint.

Review originally posted at Apoch's Metal Review.