Cryptex – Once Upon A Time (SPV/Steamhammer)

Cryptex – Once Upon A Time (SPV/Steamhammer)

Splendid progressive rock from Germany...

German trio Cryptex are, you sense, on the verge of something of a breakthrough with third album Once Upon A Time. Up to now they’ve been feeling their way, but the chrysalis begins to crack in 2020…

Because on this album the band, marshalled by ringmaster/keyboardist Simon Moskon, seem to have decided not to try and place themselves within any sort of movement, but to have decided that the only way they are really going to progress is simply by pleasing themselves and hoping a fair few of us go along for the ride. I’m willing to bet, on the strength of tracks like Because The Reason is You and Bloodmoon (with it’s fabulously shot accompanying video), that there will be a fair few of us hitching our colours to the Cryptex wagon.

Once Upon A Time is an unfettered, freewheeling romp through Moskon’s imagination, and my, what an imagination it is. If Avantasia’s Tobi Sammett decided to throw in the towel today, then in Moskon we have a ready-made replacement. His vision is widescreen, taking in the prog and pomp of the seventies and eighties (Saga are an oft-recurring reference point), mixing it up with a bit of a camp pop sensibility and topping the whole thing off with a soupcon of metal crunchiness (usually via the guitars of André Jean Henri Mertens) to fill out the sound. It’s an incredibly beguiling mix, pitching the listener headlong into a maelstrom of ideas; at first seemingly directionless, this scattershot approach to song creation is actually merely a way of planting as many seeds in the minds eye of the listener as is practicably possible without overloading the senses. Hence Body Language is a pomp rock opera of untamed elasticity, cramming so many ideas into it’s four minute ten second duration the song threatens to sag under the sheer weight of creativity, whilst the grandiose Two Horned Crown manages to filter the entire works of Magnum through a Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber-fuelled filter with extravagant, hyper-pompous results. The heavy, Eastern sounds of Hunted recall Muse at their most regal, without ever becoming a mere Xerox of the original. Cryptex often borrow and remould – but they never steal.

There’s still some way to go here for Moskon to realise his vision fully, but it’s going to be incredibly entertaining to watch this work in progress blossom to maturity. Cryptex are one of those rare bands in 2020 – a band that really, despite the obvious touchpoints, don’t really sound like anyone else currently in the marketplace – and I for one am looking forward to seeing this through to the end with the band…


Once Upon A Time is out now.

Scott Adams

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