Denver Band Cronos Compulsion Makes Metal for Cavemen | Westword

Denver's Cronos Compulsion Makes Metal for Cavemen

The band plays the Crypt on Sunday, December 17, with Bile Witch, Obscene Worship, Insipidus, and The and The Ands.
Denver's Cronos Compulsion is a brutal death-metal power trio.
Denver's Cronos Compulsion is a brutal death-metal power trio. Courtesy Cronos Compulsion

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There is a certain caveman brutality inherent in a branch of death metal that makes otherwise sensible people lose their minds whenever they hear it. That type of mindless, visceral reaction, which is evident in every chaotic mosh pit or neck-breaking headbang, has led to a tongue-in-cheek nickname for the niche subgenre: caveman death metal.

Wil Wilson is a self-professed “big paleontology nerd” and death-metal diehard. So when he learned of the expression “Cronos compulsion” during college, he knew it would make for a perfect band name.

“There’s the joke about there being ‘caveman death metal’ out there,” Wilson says. “'Cronos compulsion' is actually an archeology term. It’s not very common, but I heard it in a class that I took. It’s basically when you find mutilated corpses in the fossil record. There was one point in time, before there were burials, when they would just hack up dead bodies.”

Cronos was also the Greek god of time who overthrew his own father, Uranus, by castrating him with a flint in his sleep. When the prophecy predicted that Cronos would be similarly overtaken by his children, Cronos ate them so they’d never have the chance to. The infanticidal cannibalism is most famously portrayed in the painting Saturn Devouring His Son, by Spanish artist Francisco Goya.

Naturally, after learning about all of this, Wilson recalls thinking, “That’s so fucking cool. That needs to be a band name."

In 2021, after playing in Denver bands Thanatotheristes (a reference to a dinosaur named after the Greek term “reaper of death”) and Phthisis (aka pulmonary tuberculosis), Wilson officially started Cronos Compulsion with longtime collaborator and drummer Jon Linskey. Bassist Addison Herron-Wheeler, who is also Wilson’s wife (and a former Westword contributor), rounds out the death-metal power trio.

Wilson and Herron-Wheeler — who'd initially planned to be a fill-in for the group’s first gig — were used to jamming together, but had never been bandmates before. “I think we were always a little tentative about that, but so far it’s been great,” Wilson says. “We get to hang out and jam and work on riffs all the time.”

The group doesn’t “take itself too seriously,” he explains, but there is a serious underlying sentiment, from the moniker to the lyrics. “If I were to throw a theme out there, it would be the violence we commit against each other as humans,” he adds. “We’ve come so far as a species, and yet you just look around at the world every day, and we’re still cavemen. We’re cavemen with nuclear weapons. That’s what we like to address: We’re a violent species.”

Further illustrating that point is the cover art for the 2023 EP Malicious Regression, which showcases a sketch of a caveman bashing a gored torso with a skull.

“When we saw that illustration, we were like, ‘That’s it,’” Wilson recalls with a laugh.

The five violent offerings on the release, including “Sacred Butchery” and “Morbid Subconscious Explorations,” are a mix of brutal death metal and death doom. Wilson and Linskey also have a background in electronic and industrial music, which Cronos Compulsion sprinkles in live. “We all love death metal, but there’s so much death metal out there. We want to try to give people a little something different,” Wilson shares.

“Live, we’ve been experimenting with a lot of electronics and introducing a more industrial element into some of our newer material,” he continues. “We’re hoping it’s going to go beyond the scope of death metal in the future.”

While Cronos Compulsion is busy working on its first full-length, set to be released sometime in 2024, the band will play the Crypt on Sunday, December 17, with Bile Witch, Obscene Worship, Insipidus, and The and the Ands.

Other than its troglodyte qualities, Cronos Compulsion is also a member of a unique subsect of Denver death-metal trios that includes such acts as Primitive Man, the Munsens, Astral Tomb, Insipidus and Of Feather and Bone.

Wilson, taking a moment to shoo his cat away from chewing on a cable, admits there’s no good reason that the group is a trio other than it just works. “There is something that I always liked about that — when it’s just three people making as much noise as they can,” he says. “We play some shreddy riffs, but we don’t turn our noses up at something that’s slow and brutal. There are so many different ways to be heavy and aggressive with your music. I think we’re all drawn to that. There’s just so much out there. We never want to get bogged down by keeping ourselves in one category.”

There has been some talk about beefing up the lineup and sound by adding a second guitarist at some point, he adds, but it would be more of a luxury than anything. “We’re a trio, and the three of us have equal parts writing and responsibilities with the band,” Wilson says. “I think the three of us have a good dynamic for now.”

He also knows that “people get what we’re going for.

"What I like about Denver is I feel like people here are super open-minded when it comes to music,” he concludes.

Cronos Compulsion, 7 p.m. Sunday, December 17, the Crypt, East 17th Avenue. Tickets are $15 at the door.
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