It’s been something of both a revelation and a surprise to see a second chapter of The Crypt Injection surface, given that it has been over ten years since the release of the original album. For fans of LA’s Aggrotech-turned-Industrial Black Metal band Dawn Of Ashes’ early, exclusively electronic material, a follow-up couldn’t come soon enough, especially if this could be a return to their musical roots, as had been teased over the months leading up to its release. Well, The Crypt Injection II (Non Serviam) aims to please those long-time followers, as founder Kristof has definitely returned to the distinctly Industrial leanings that helped propel them to notoriety in the mid-00s, yet the album is still peppered with subtle undertones of DOA’s more recent Blackened material. However, whilst there are a lot of familiar characteristics, there have been some significant progressions – the mix is richer, the instruments have increased presence, the percussion hits a lot harder and the overall production is simply meatier. What you’re getting here is classic DOA, but with all the benefits of the years of experience and maturity in song-writing that comes with growth in band chemistry and Kristof’s continued personal development, plus the inevitable advances in audio production & technology.
As has been the theme of most albums to date, the opening track is an intro piece with an intriguing title, ‘Thirteen Chants to Lillith’. It’s dark and extremely atmospheric and is the perfect mood-setter for opening song ‘Reborn in Fire’ with its wonderfully harmonic chorus reminiscent of ‘Still Born Defect’, complete with those DOA trademark chord progressions momentarily lifting the track from its darkened feel.
‘The Serpents of Eden’ features searing, sinister synth-pads sweeping across the soundscape, with a predominantly grinding down-tempo stomp that briefly gives way to a frantic double-time tempo’d guitar break. The intensity levels up towards the close, with some vicious, vitriolic vocal attacks from Kristof. It’s a commanding performance complete with a provocative music video to accompany it – you’d be hard pressed to forget this song, especially with visceral lyrics like “Your God will never serve a purpose!”
Heading into the next song, the dark lead synth melodies of ‘Ahriman’ feature heavily and accompany Kristof’s savage vocal delivery perfectly. The pace is both urgent and purposeful pace with heavy, pounding kicks adding emphasis to the vocal phrasing. Double-time tempo switches in the final third enhance the frantic feel of this song.
‘Slaves to the Addiction’ switches gear a little, providing an eerie, dark, haunting quality, the orchestral string flurries add a rich cinematic feel, with the accompanying radio-comm vocal samples provide a modern twist on the lo-fi old-school EBM vibe, not too dissimilar to early Front Line Assembly. The deep, buzzing staccato bassline melodies also conjure that signature Berliner sound, which gives me goosebumps. The dramatic string-filled chorus and haunting female vocals feature in the bridges and instrumental break – there are so many different flavours and influences on offer here and all gel beautifully. Masterful stuff!
The journey continues with ‘Sitra Ahra’ – a grinding, down-tempo intro that picks up pace for the opening verse. Highlights here are the slow bridge with its sinister melody (not to mention the percussive hits reminiscent of Terminator – “Duh-Duh__Duh__Duh-Duh”) and a hypnotic instrumental break offering momentary respite before returning for a hard-hitting final chorus. I particularly like the way this song ebbs away for the close, as the lead synths fade, leaving a warm pulsating bass playing a fade-out.
‘Spirit of Anger’ features some frantic percussion and heavy 4-to-the-floor stomping rhythms dominate the verses, bridges and chorus, whilst some interesting speech excerpts pepper the track too. There is a distinctly late 80s / early 90s old-school vibe with the short, repetitive speech samples and choice of synths characteristic of that era. The lasting memory with this sing will be its relentless dark, brooding atmosphere – there is absolutely no give here; not even the breaks offer any respite.
Heading deep into the flow of this album now and it’s time for a guest-spot – here we have ‘Hexcraft’, featuring vocals from Suicide Commando’s Johan Van Roy. Immediately the listener is introduced to military-esque percussion and orchestral synths during the opening, leading into some of Johan’s trademark crunchy, distorted kicks punch through the mix, making this more than just Dawn Of Ashes with guest vocals slapped together – this feels a lot more collaborative!
Johan’s hissing vocals lend perfectly to this track and are still as purposeful and hate-fuelled as ever. Great synth arpeggios play further back in the mix to support the lead harmonies, though it cannot be ignored that this song is somewhat ‘lighter’ than the others so far – there’s just not quite as much presence in the mix, although the snare still packs a punch. This is a rather minor point to make however and there’s far more to praise here than there is to be critical of. In fact there’s a pleasant surprise in ’Hexcraft’ that makes a not-so-subtle nod to the original ‘Crypt Injection’ song from the first chapter, as Johan roars the words “it’s the crypt, that makes me cold … so cold!”. I like that they decided to include these lyrics in there and a very cool moment to hear Johan deliver them.
‘Abuse the Abuser’ is a grimier guitar-led Industrial affair, complete with chugging guitar and a lead throughout the choruses performing harmonies with the synths. Personally I found the lead guitar had slightly less presence than I would have liked, as it tended to hang more towards the back of the mix. Greater presence would have allowed the lead melody to soar over the synth a bit more – it just came across as a little ’nervous’ amongst the other instruments. Additionally, the chopping effect added to the guitar was a little distracting and made it sound more mechanical / sampled rather than a live / human performance.
Drawing towards the close, next up is ‘Non Serviam’, which is a full-on stomper and features some great rhythmic elements and nasty vocals, complimented by thunderous, pummelling distorted kicks. The decision to switch between lush harmonies and discordant pad and lead synths adds an unsettling atmosphere. My personal highlight is the lead melody, which particularly stands out towards the close when the kicks no longer dominate the mix. This is a strong track placed deep into the album’s journey – creative fatigue has certainly not set in at this point.
For the closing song we have ’Entering The Realm of Shadows’ and the title really says it all. This is a dark, sprawling atmospheric track with cold metallic hits, yet more speech samples and a grinding, down-tempo pace. The heavy, mechanical percussion smashes and crunches its way through the mix whilst a deep, metallic bass synth plods away to druid-like synth ‘Ahh’ pads. This is another fine example of DOA’s ability to compose dramatic instrumental outros and what a way to end this second chapter of ‘The Crypt Injection’… but will this be the last, or will this mark a second part of a continuing series? Only time will tell what will be planned and it may all depend on how fans & critics alike respond to this release. Who knows.
With the standard edition there are a couple of bonus remixes, which are certainly welcome.
Firstly ‘Slaves to the Addiction’ is given the remix treatment by Chris Vrenna. Personally I feel as though this version is fairly pedestrian in its approach. It doesn’t particularly develop all that much and is far lighter than the original album version. Okay for a once-over, but I can’t see myself returning to it again.
The second remix is ‘Ahriman’ from Mexican Harsh Elektro scene legends Hocico. From the very first bar you can hear Erk & Racso’s signature sound – the duo have clearly worked their grimy yet tuneful magic on this track. This version is powerful, with quality hard-hitting production and definitely earns its place as the ultimate closer for the album. It’s likely to get a few more spins again from me in future.
Whilst the later Black Metal characteristics have taken a step back and allowed more room for the original Aggrotech sound to take the lead, it’s clear that Kristof has rekindled his passion for the dark electronic music that were the band’s foundations during their early years and for a long-time fan I’m almost certain they’d be thrilled by this decision. Personally I’ve enjoyed their journey within both the Aggrotech & Industrial Black Metal phases and enjoy them both in their own right. On a deeper level I tend to connect more with the heavier Black Metal style of DOA’s more recent releases and yet whilst this may be the case, my enjoyment of this particular album hasn’t diminished because of the stylistic shift, on the contrary it has grown with every listen.
Want more Dawn Of Ashes content?
If you enjoyed this review, or have listened to the album and want to know more, why not check out our interview with Dawn Of Ashes frontman & founder Kristof Bathory HERE.
Additionally, we have reviews for previous DOA albums:
‘Daemonolatry Gnosis’ and ‘Theophany’