Artist: Crafting the Conspiracy
Album: The Cosmic Key, Part I
There is more to telling a story than simply reciting words and connecting them with a plot and the people that drive that plot along. I mean—true—some stories are just that, a feeble plot with feeble players and a tired, predictable ending. But those aren’t the good stories—the stuff that builds our favorite fantasy tales and action flicks, the tales of love, loss, combat, courage, hardship and triumph that inspire one’s heart to beat faster and one’s manner to become bolder. Those stories aren’t just haphazardly tossed together, nor are they just told, they’re crafted, and in such a way, the 2019 EP by death metal-turned-deathcore outfit Crafting the Conspiracy embarks on the same undertaking. Built on a foundation of intense and intricate instrumentation with a veritable onslaught of visceral, throat-shredding vocals and loosely conceptual tales spanning violence, adversity, trial, tribulation and—again—triumph, The Cosmic Key, Part I is, if nothing else, dynamic and immersive. However, does it live up to the subtle insinuation placed within this metallic outfit’s name—is it truly crafted? Or perhaps is their ten-ton blend of death metal still stuck between thesis and antithesis, undergoing a careful-but-tedious process of maturation with an ending still yet to be firmed up?
Fundamentally, The Cosmic Key’s first installment is a death metal album with some nods for lovers of the slam and the breakdown thrown in. Built on a solid foundation of Gil Gon’s bustling percussion, songs like “Lament of a Forgotten Race” or “Dimension Door” are energetic and intense, going right for the throat from the first second—this is especially true of “Dimension Door.” Gon’s drumming is tight and carefully crafted, a good balance between technicality and groovy, fluid and foundational instrumentation. “The Carrier” sees Gon working more closely with bassist Marcus Williams, adding a groovy, thick low end into the otherwise punishing and break-neck nature of his work, whereas “Embodied Isolation” or “The Traveler” are blast-beat and fill heavy works of metallic mastery, with Gon easily oscillating between scathing segments that match the riff-heavy fury of fretsmith Sebastian Bracamontes, and breakdowns heavy enough to shrink the listener’s spine. Bracamontes’ work, however, is where Crafting the Conspiracy’s instrumentation is truly remarkable. He blends a myriad style of metal with some raw, brutal elements to give listeners a fine sampling of the heavy music spectrum. This is especially true of “Dimension Door,” as it is of the epic closing jaunt, “Within the Labyrinth.” Bracamontes’ work is on par or better for equally experienced death metal guitarists throughout much The Cosmic Key, Part I, which given the genre’s focus on grooves, riffs and relentless instrumentation is praise in itself.
However, if we are to consider The Cosmic Key, Part I a story, it must have a wordsmith—a lyricist with a voice loud and bold enough to do the tale justice—and Crafting the Conspiracy offer frontman Josh Miranda as theirs. Miranda’s voice fits the atmosphere and intensity abundant throughout The Cosmic Key, Part I, giving the EP more than enough vocal prowess to at least keep up with the ravenous and relentless pace of the instrumentation. Cuts like “Dimension Door” and “The Carrier” see Miranda working overtime on his own, highlighting his own skills and talents—where “The Traveler” sees the release’s finest vocal moment in the form of a guest appearance by Ben Duerr (Shadow of Intent, Hollow Prophet). Where Duerr is welcomed with open arms by the heavy music community, his part does serve as the vocal pinnacle for The Cosmic Key Part I, which is as much a blessing as it is a curse. Ultimately, where many of Miranda’s minutes throughout the release are solid or better, other areas—namely his contributions to “Within the Labyrinth” seem to fall a touch flat, with a range that either cuts itself short or just feels stagnant after 20 minutes of similar patterns, styles and tactics and lyrics that fail to stay stuck in the listener’s head. This isn’t to say by any means that Miranda is bad or even sub par—he is far from it, a talented frontman for his style and genre—but his ability, along with the remainder of Crafting the Conspiracy, to keep the listener engaged throughout the entire release is an area which needs improvement.
The Cosmic Key, Part I is a strong outing with minor pitfalls—a somewhat homogenous and formulaic foundation compounded by little extra “flair” to separate it from the death metal masses. Although it is lifted by moments of pure brilliance (“Dimension Door” and “The Traveler”) as well as excellent production, it still feels as though it’s a story without a purposeful ending or content worthy of coming back to—however, with the nature of Part I in the title, it remains a story that remains only partially told, with the hopes that Crafting the Conspiracy take their potential and cash it in on the songs to come.
For Fans Of: Shadow of Intent, Whitechapel, Nephilim
By: Connor Welsh