Interview: Cryptic Shift on death metal, worm-holes, and H.P. Lovecraft

Cryptic Shift are a technical thrash/death group from Leeds, Yorkshire. After encountering them opening for the legendary Exodus in 2016, I was instantly won over with their aggressive, technical brand of sci-fi metal. They’ve toured and performed with bands such as VektorLost SocietyMithrasIngested, and will soon be opening for the death American metal juggernauts Suffocation in Leeds. After their monstrous 2016 EP ‘Beyond the Celestial Realms’, in April they released their new digital single ‘Cosmic Dreams’ through UKEM Records. Read on for an interview with their guitarist and vocalist Xander on death metal, sci-fi, and touring with Vektor.

You seem to have had quite a musical journey since the early stages of the band’s existence. Can you explain a little about how Cryptic Shift came together as a band?

After the dissolution of a former band, we restarted leading up to 2015 with a new focused sound and much improved work ethic.

What is it that inspires you as a band to write and perform the music that you do? And for yourself personally, who do you look to for inspiration with your guitarwork?

As much as I do love death and thrash metal etc, it’s overflowing with the same tremolo riffing, slayer beats, boxed-in soloing and all those bloody power chords! I want to make something that’s not based upon these foundations. So whenever I’m writing I like to incorporate fresh unorthodox sounds by utilizing rarely heard chord tensions, open strings and angular riffing ideas. While we do still love to put in the occasional Egyptian sounding 5th harmony and grooves reminiscent of Death, this unconventional sort of writing has come to the forefront of the newer compositions and will become even more and more prominent with each release. To play the music that I’ve written in front of people who are genuinely interested is the coolest and really drives me to write more, plus it’s a place I can put these stories and worlds I create from the lyrics into. Regarding inspiration with my guitarwork I’d say Dave Davidson, Phil Tougas and Luc Lemay are the top three a the moment. Luc especially is a really inspirational character and has a really great outlook on his writing process, especially back on their Obscura album. I also really dig what bands like Zealotry, Chthe’ilist, Zhrine, Ad Nauseam, Vektor, Wormed and Artificial Brain are doing right now.

I saw you guys open for Exodus and Lost Society at Fibbers in York last year, which was an incredible gig all around. How was it for you guys? How did it feel to be opening for Exodus and Lost Society?

It was sort of rushed and with being first on as well as having a super short set it was pretty nerve wracking to be fair. However it was incredible to be playing to a lot of new people and at a really professional venue with great sound, so we’re 100% thankful to the venue for allowing us to share that stage with such an influential band which was essential in helping the band progress to where we are now. That was pretty much our first really huge gig, which led the way for us to go onto support similar bands like Municipal Waste, Vektor etc. and there’s more to come…

Since then you’ve also opened for Vektor in Dublin, Manchester, and London. I imagine for a sci-fi obsessed thrash band like yourself that must have been awesome, right? How was that mini tour?

It was the coolest time! We are all huge fans and Vektor were super super cool dudes. It definitely felt like another (huge) step in the right direction for the band which gained us a ton of new followers, especially as you mentioned that we have the sci-fi vibe about us both. We look forward to the next one!

Your new single “Cosmic Dreams” was recently released digitally through UKEM Records. How did that arrangement come about? Did they reach out to you? And how has working with them been so far? Any plans for future collaboration?

We got in contact and UKEM were really happy to work with us, they’ve been really helpful. It’s super cool seeing our name on all the streaming sites like Spotify which is the main source of music listening for a lot of people these days. We have a couple ideas for another collaboration before our next big release so yeah I’d say it’s likely!

You’ve said that the single “forms the cataclysmic prologue of an epic sci-fi saga”. Can we expect to see this explored further in the near future? Is a full-length album on the horizon? And does Beyond The Cosmic Realms fit into this saga?

It will be explored, a lot! It started out as a short inter-planetary tale I wrote involving wormholes, deep space exploration, moon bases etc after playing some games like Borderlands and Bloodborne; their sci-fi and HP lovecraft inspired mythos inspired me to forge my own and now it’s almost got out of hand! It’s progressed into an enormous epic that’s planned to be spread out across multiple songs. I enjoy thinking up bizarre alien stories just as much as writing the music to accompany it. Does BTCR fit in though… None of it was intended to, Spore, Glacial and Voyage are definitely standalone occurrences however I guess Deathcrusher can slot in somewhere with it’s dimension-crossing and ancient ‘higher’ beings. An album is a big undertaking, one which we want to get right, with a strong backing and at a suitable time point. So while it has been talked about it’s most likely not the foreseeable horizon, but maybe a cosmic horizon a few light-years away.. But hey, we’ll see what the near-future holds!

What are your best and worst gig memories/stories?

Tough question! I don’t think we have a worst but the best could be the show with Municipal Waste in Leeds last year, totally insane crowd. Or it could be the show with Vektor in Dublin, playing overseas to a totally new audience was fantastic.

How did you find the gig in York playing with Domination and Pariah?

It was too cool! Connor puts on killer shows there and a ton of people always come out. We always make new friends from the crowd and other bands so we’re always stoked to play those shows. It was good to see a really new band like Pariah and an overseas band like Domination. We’re also planning on reaching out and hitting mainland Europe soon.

What does the near-future hold for Cryptic Shift?

A new batch of intense tunes are under construction right now, they’re really an incredible step up from BTCR, and even Cosmic Dreams. Super excited to start playing them live and release them, however there’s gonna be another single release like Cosmic Dreams in between now and then to keep everyone happy!  In regards of gigs, we’ve got a support slot with SUFFOCATION on the 28th August in Leeds (Eiger Studios) which is guaranteed to be crushing shows. There’s also a weekender with Bristol thrashers Seprevation and Barrow death dealers Repulsive Vision to announce, looking forward to hanging with all those guys again. A couple of these new songs might slip into our live setlist soon so make sure you keep an eye on our website and social media for gigs and even more inter-dimensional goodness. Cheers Matt and all in the Metal Void, keep your spacesuits plentiful with O2 and don’t venture too deep into any wormholes.

Thanks again to Xander of Cryptic Shift for taking the time to talk about the band’s music! You can purchase their new single Cosmic Dreams and their EP Beyond the Celestial Realms on Bandcamp here.