Band – Crypts of Despair
Album – All Light Is Swallowed
Country of Origin – Lithuania
Genre – Death Metal
Release Date – Delayed by COVID
Label – Transcending Obscurity Records
Author – Hayduke X
I have learned over the years that eastern Europe has a metal scene that is both fertile and nasty. Lithuania, in particular, is a country name that keeps popping up beside projects that hit me hard. Thus, I was not surprised, after being blindsided by the first single from All Light Is Swallowed, to see that the band sprang out of the darkness of the aforementioned nation. Crypts of Despair call forth a barely contained savagery that is almost a sentient beast itself on their sophomore release.
Originally formed in 2009 as a trio, the band went through multiple line-up changes and even a three year hiatus before finding the four members that comprise the project now. 2017 saw the band’s first release, entitled The Stench of the Earth, which received positive notice. Now, the band, with new drummer H.M., scorch the earth again with All Light Is Swallowed.
I think the strength of the album is the atmosphere. Dense and dark to the point of blackness, listening to All Light Is Swallowed is akin to entering a haunted forest, hunted by demons, tree limbs so thickly entwined above you as to block out all but the palest glint of moonlight. The riffs set you entirely at unease, hackles raised, retreating into your lizard brain, ready for fight or flight. The thick bass attack winds together with the drumming artillery to set a haunting pace, never allowing you to feel at rest. The vocal attack, with two distinct styles – one higher, one lower – are the voices of the demon masters out hunting. The prey of course, is you.
In addition to H.M. on drums, the line-up is rounded out by D.A. (vocals, guitar), B.J. (guitar), and S.J. (vocals, bass). Interestingly, none of these members are original. D.A. is the longest tenured, joining the founding trio in 2010. The other two, along with D.A. and S.K. (founding drums), came into the band when it re-formed in 2016. J.Ž. (Bass/Vocals) and V. (Guitars) were the other founding members, with V. apparently departing after only a few rehearsals.
Too often, modern death metal is formulaic. It’s hard, I would imagine, to sound fresh and visceral in a genre that has been around for so many decades and produced so many bands. Crypts of Despair have found out how to do it though. All Light Is Swallowed is less of an album and more of a channeling of eviscerating darkness. The void has been opened. The Keepers are hunting. You have been warned!
Keep reading below the video for my full interview with D.A.
Hayduke X: Congratulations on the upcoming release of All Light Is Swallowed. What an incredibly dark masterpiece! What are your thoughts on how it turned out?
D.A.: Thank you. It turned out very well. We worked our asses off on all aspects, from recording to production. It was a very long and hard journey but it was worth it.
HX: Take us back to the beginning. How did Crypts of Despair form?
D.A.: Unfortunately, I can’t tell you that. When I joined the band, it had already been around for one year, and now there are no original members left.
HX: Can you tell me about your early experiences then? How were you brought into the band?
D.A.: Originally, the band is from Kaunas, the second biggest city in Lithuania. I grew up in a smaller town, thirty minutes away from Kaunas. One day, I decided I wanted to be in a band, so I looked up advertisements on the internet, found that Crypts of Despair was looking for a second guitar player. I went to one rehearsal and that was it.
HX: So, Crypts of Despair is your first band?
D.A.: The first and the main one!
HX: I see that you’ve been a part of at least five other bands, according to Metal Archives. How do you make all of that work?
D.A.: All the people in the bands have a lot of experience and we don’t need to gather for practise everyday. We practise when we have new material or before the gigs. Everyone does their “homework”, so we get together just to get the flow and right atmosphere between us.
HX: That must be a nice situation to be in.
D.A.: It has its flaws. I love rehearsing and I would love to play more often, but most of us are in different cities and countries, so its not possible to get in one place very often.
HX: Different countries even? Can I ask where the other members are from?
D.A.: Our drummer is from Estonia, approximately 550 miles from Vilnius.
HX: That’s quite a distance. Do you get together to write, or is a lot of that through sending files back and forth?
D.A.: I compose the songs and send them to check for the other members. If they have any additional ideas on riffs or arrangements, then we discuss.
HX: Speaking of the lineup, Crypts has gone through several lineup changes and even stopped for a while. Tell me about this.
D.A.: Okay, so when I joined, the band was a trio. After the first rehearsal, the guitar player (I don’t remember his name, because it was the first and last time I saw him) didn’t show up at all, so we decided to move on. Then, after three years of very active playing and attempts to record the album, I had some life challenges and I had to move away from Lithuania for a year and a half. After I came back, we played one show, but the vocalist at that time didn’t want to continue anymore. So we stopped. Two years later, I was drinking with S.J. at my place. He started to ask questions about what happened with Crypts of Despair. I explained to him as per above and he told me that he could play in the band. A few days after, the former drummer randomly asked me if I was interested. I said yes, and asked my best friend B.J. if he wanted to join and we have been active since then. Now we have a new powerful drummer H.M. and we are moving forward steadily!
HX: Does H.M. drum on this album?
D.A.: Yes, correct. He delivered all the drum parts in three days at the studio.
HX: Wow! Impressive. Do you feel that you have a solid line-up now, that this is Crypts of Despair for awhile at least?
D.A.: Absolutely! All four of us are good friends, have the same goals, are focused and in the same mind set what our death metal is all about!
HX: And what is your death metal all about?
D.A.: Darkness, malevolent atmosphere, despair and hatred!
HX: Well, you guys nailed it on the album then.
Who would you say were your key musical influences?
D.A.: Thank you very much. Nothing conscious. These days most riffs or ideas come from an inner state, feelings that dwell within. All of us listen to lots of different music.
HX: That’s probably why your music sounds so fresh. Too much these days sounds like ten other bands that came before.
D.A.: I will never copy anyone or create the same album twice. That’s kind of my iron rule that I follow. I never try to be like someone. It’s not my interest with this band.
HX: Quite honestly, that aspect of it is what caught me attention. I’m not into very much death metal, because too much sounds the same. Right away, on the first single, I could hear you guys were different.
You guys are (mostly) from Lithuania. What’s the metal scene like there?
D.A.: Thank you. That’s a great compliment!
It’s small, but probably the strongest yet. The majority is black metal, but almost every band now is focused on quality not quantity, so it’s great.
HX: That’s important, quality over quantity. I’ve definitely noticed some black metal (my favorite genre) coming out of there too, and agree to the quality of it.
Your debut album The Stench of the Earth was released independently and then it looks like eventually through Testimony Records. Now you’ve signed with Transcending Obscurity Records. Tell me about the label change. What do you think TO brings to the table?
D.A.: TO, and especially label owner Kunal, is very serious and passionate about the music, very honest and a good human being. He understood our vision and direction. On every aspect we were on the same page, so we inked our friendship. TO is all about the quality, exclusive and special releases (box sets, various merch) so we are excited to work with them.
HX: That’s good to hear. I’ve worked with Kunal for several years and have exactly the same impression. It’s nice to see that reputation out there among bands too.
D.A.: For me it’s important to have a connection with a label not only “business” wise but also personally. Almost like a friend that has the same passion about music!
HX: Very understandable.
You sort of talked about this already, but maybe you can be more specific? What are some of the lyrical themes on All Light Is Swallowed?
D.A.: The title of the album sums up what’s inside it. Some of the lyrics could be read as someone who is talking to you. Others are mostly our inner negative feelings expressed, death appreciation.
HX: Tell me about the album art. The creator, how it represents the music, etc.
D.A.: The creator is Nestor Avalos. He has done art for bands like Blut Aus Nord, Bloodbath, Valkyrja, etc. His infernal vision was the right choice for us. When I contacted him, I told him the rough idea of rising death, sent him lyrics and the music, and he made his own interpretation. We were amazed with the final result.
HX: That’s definitely a name to remember. How has COVID affected the band?
D.A.: Except for a delayed release (we still don’t know the exact date), it didn’t affect us too much.
HX: Do you have touring and/or festival plans once that becomes a possibility again?
D.A.: We have only one festival in Lithuania, Devilstone, booked in 2021. Nothing much apart from that. We need this album to be released, then we will be able to plan a tour or other gigs.
HX: What’s next for the band? Are you writing new music yet?
D.A.: What’s next – we are waiting for the album to be released and then we will see. During the period until final mix and master was confirmed, I had “writers block” and when it finally was done, something started to come out. So, yes, new music is being created.
HX: Final question, what else should we know?
D.A.: Keep your eyes open!
Editor’s Note: Though that was the end of the formal interview, D.A. and I kept chatting (at his prompting, though I was happy to keep chatting too) over the course of several days, and actually continue to do so. With his permission, we are sharing some interesting parts of that conversation as well. In some ways, it’s more interesting than the formal interview.
HX: What do you listen to on your own time?
D.A.: I listen to many things – in music, I always look for honesty to the extent I can relate to. So my music taste spans from rap/electronics/pop to hardcore punk/grindcore, brutal death metal/black metal and so on. I do not restrict myself to specific “music store shelf description”. I don’t care what style it is, only if it communicates with me – that’s it.
HX: I’m very much the same way, though I have favorite styles of course. I listen to at least some of every style you listed. Whatever it is, it has to touch me emotionally in some way.
Whether that’s to make me feel something positive or negative doesn’t matter as much, so long as it touches me somehow.
D.A.: I have my style that when you hear it, it strikes you hardest.
For me the most important thing is if it touches negative emotions, where all the pain lies down. Because it’s the real thing. You can fake joy, but you can’t fake the pain.
HX: I would say that’s mostly true. I think it’s rare but possible to hear positive emotion captured too.
An example, for me. https://youtu.be/ahJ6Kh8klM4
HX: It’s nostalgic, bittersweet maybe, but still very positive.
D.A.: Well, it’s all about the balance. You can’t have pain without the joy, and joy without the pain. Well, me personally, negative music makes me positive.
HX: I find that a lot too actually. My family doesn’t get it. Lol. They don’t question that it means something to me though. Do you think music has higher purpose in general, other than entertainment?
D.A.: Absolutely!!! I hate music which is made for only entertainment. From its beginning, its purpose was to educate , to make you look inside, rethink all your journey, ways, values! Music is one of the most powerful things that can change your life. Look, three hundred years ago, people gathered to the shows, not because of entertainment, but to actually bring something back with them.
HX: For sure. Do you think the easy access to recorded music has changed things positively? Negatively? Both?
D.A.: No. I don’t think so. All is natural progress. I don’t think that people in the ‘40s, to record music, had the same conditions and options like people in the ‘90s.
So, the answer is no. It’s all positive. It’s all about how people use it!
HX: Interesting take. “Progress is inevitable”, if I’m reading you right. I’ve generally viewed it as a double edged sword, with some good and some bad. Life’s like that in general though.
D.A.: Yes. You are right. As I mentioned, it’s all about balance.
HX: What do you hope your audience takes away from your music?
D.A.: I hope they find a piece of themselves in it. If they get it – that’s great. Communication done right. Music is about communication between beings that don’t know each other but can understand each other
HX: I often have trouble reviewing the music that speaks to me the most. It’s like, it reaches me on a different level, a level that can’t be translated into words. Do you ever feel anything like that? Is there some form of that from the other side, as the musician, where you can only express something through music?
D.A.: That’s totally my view. It’s hard to talk, because it touches you on a personal level, and for most people, to talk about personal stuff is hard and not comfortable. About the expression – definitely. Otherwise we would be locked up in jail for a long time.
HX: Well, I’m glad you play music then. As we’ve been discussing, I feel music on a very personal level. I think I can more accurately describe who I am by pointing to certain music and saying, if you understand this, you understand me. What would some of those songs/albums/bands be for you?
D.A.: Yes, that’s a great description man. For me it’s kind of the same. I would say – Hangman’s Chair – Banlieu Triste, every Dead Congregation record, Driller Killer and many more. Because when I listen to music I don’t look at the genre, I am waiting for that good “punch in the face” and if it strikes me, that’s it!
HX: Yeah, mine are all over the place too. I’ve been thinking about it just now and it would include everything from Napalm Death to Skagos to Run The Jewels to R.E.M. and more.
Why did you start playing?
D.A.: For me, some 90s east coast rap kicks me hard.
I don’t know. It’s hard to tell. I have been passionate about music since I was seven years old, so I remember when I was about sixteen, I picked up my friend’s guitar, and without any knowledge, I managed to play the melody of some band (I don’t remember which) and that was it.
HX: Just innate maybe. Also, 90s east coast rap is the best. Nas is the GOAT. Illmatic is the greatest rap album of all time. Just had to get that off my chest. Lol
D.A.: Yes, I just bought it on vinyl.
HX: I’ve got it on vinyl myself.
D.A.: Do you remember what started your exploration of heavy music? For me, it was Twisted Sister – Stay Hungry. I was fascinated by the look, the aggression, the riffs, everything.
D.A.: My parents are metalheads, so I guess it was a natural choice. I lived in a dangerous town at that time, and during summers, mostly I stayed at home, while they were working. So, my father had a stash of bootleg CDs, I put on Sepultura, Kreator, Metallica, and from that point, everything went worse and worse haha. When I was around thirteen, I got internet and started to explore music and found death metal. It totally scared the shit out of me, and at the same time, I was curious. My hunger for more kept getting bigger and bigger.
HX: Do you get many bands touring through there?
D.A.: Yeah, we do. Not as much as other countries, like Poland, but can’t complain too much.
HX: What dream lineup would you like to see there, with Crypts playing too, of course.
D.A.: There’s way to fucking many to mention. One for sure – its my dream to get on tour with Dead Congregation. It’s my all time favorite death metal band ever. Also I would add Immolation. Oh man, the list could go on and on.
HX: Lol. Fair enough. What are some standout releases from 2020 for you?
D.A.: Meth Leppard – Woke, Wake – Devouring Ruin, and of course, Ulcerate.
HX: I haven’t listened to the Meth Leppard. The other two are high on my list as well. I have Devouring Ruin on vinyl, as well as three other Wake releases. They’re a favorite.
D.A.: I am a freak for grind/hc/punk music in general. So Meth Leppard is a totally great sonic assault. Wake is one of my favorites too.
HX: I need to check out Meth Leppard, I guess. I’m much more of a punk than a metalhead.
Our conversations have continued and probably will going forward. This just seemed like a reasonable point to cut things off. Be sure to check out All Light Is Swallowed when it drops. It’s incredible.
Biography: Hayduke X has been writing for MoshPitNation since June of 2016. Beginning in 2018, he also began writing for VM Metal Underground. Prior to joining the MoshPitNation team, Hayduke published reviews on his own blog Rage and Frustration. In addition, he has DJ’ed an online metal radio show of the same name as his blog, written for TOmetal.com, done interviews for Metal Rules, and collaborated with The Art of B Productions to create video interviews with a wide variety of bands.