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Krallice - "Krallice" (CD)

Krallice - "Krallice" CD cover image

"Krallice" track listing:

1. Wretched Wisdom
2. Cnestorial
3. Molec Codicies
4. Timehusk
5. Energy Chasms
6. Forgiveness In Rot

Reviewed by on August 5, 2008

"They use the techniques of black metal like surgeons use scalpels. Krallice is a psychotic experiment in overpowering and distorting the listener's perception of time."

Despite its members' long, distinguished discographies in the pursuit of experimental and progressive metal, the first album by Krallice seems to come from nowhere. With this project, Mick Barr (Ocrilim, Octis, and Orthrelm) and Colin Marston (Dysrhythmia, Behold... The Arctopus, and Indricothere) aren't focusing on their trademark displays of mind blowing technicality. Instead, they're inspired by the frigid, alienating moods of outsider black metal.

At times, the music approaches a more robotic Wolves In The Throne Room, or a Negura Bunget without the pastoral folk influences. This isn't all corpse paint and howling at dead trees though, as Barr and Marston are avant-garde musicians first and foremost, and they use the techniques of black metal like surgeons use scalpels. Krallice is a psychotic experiment in overpowering and distorting the listener's perception of time.

Barr and Marston are joined by Lev Weinstein (the drummer from Bloody Panda), who sounds like he's been listening to a lot of Orthrelm lately. In both bands, the drum work tends to precisely underpin and anchor the guitar's own rhythm, feeling like an extension of the guitar and not introducing many new ideas into the songs. Krallice is almost entirely Barr and Marston's show, and it's dominated by their abstract, spidery guitar lines. The frequent melodies are haunting and extremely well crafted, but never lush or comforting. It's an album that rarely lets you rest, and offers no hope of escape.

Both guitarists are known for their prowess in instrumental bands, but at times on “Krallice,” Barr lends his voice to the songs. The vocals are hoarse and tormented shouts, generally buried at the bottom of the mix. Although Barr's vocal style is fairly forgettable, he adds an integral part to the band: a lone human element in this alien maelstrom, emerging from the howling guitar and constantly getting reburied in it.

The band uses massive amounts of repetition, yet stays completely unpredictable. You never know when a given rhythm or melodic part will appear, disappear or become utterly transformed. These songs ask you to pay close attention and look for patterns in the chaos, but listen too close, and Krallice carries you off, throwing you down five or ten minutes later.

An early high point is the album's second track, “Cnestorial.” It grips you with intricate, unearthly harmonies, and then blows itself open into a full on blackened symphony. At times here Lev Weinstein's drumming even takes the forefront, shuttling the beat back and forth underneath the guitars. When Weinstein makes a fuller contribution, Krallice seems particularly assured, rising above their great concept to demonstrate the interplay of a great band. But that's not to say the guitarists ever stop reaving your ass down, and the track ends with a classic Mick Barr solo, expressive and cripplingly fast.

The third track, “Timehusk,” is another standout. It gradually fades in with a rhythm of tom-tom and bass pulse, approaching like a marching army, and proceeds to do some interesting things with structure as the drumming cycles between overwhelming and minimalist.

On tracks like “Wretched Wisdom” and “Energy Chasms,” Krallice gets its point across with the extreme use of monotony, even feeling formulaic at times. But the fifteen minute closing piece, “Forgiveness In Rot,” throbs with restrained tension and offers up some great call-and-response guitar work. More than any other track, it demonstrates that Marston and Barr know each other's styles completely, complimenting one another as if they've always played together.

“Krallice” makes a cold and exhausting listen, and succeeds completely at its stated intention of hypnotizing and disorienting the listener. It's unlikely you'll return to it every day, because it evokes such a specific mood, but it builds something new and breathtaking from black metal's traditionally limited arsenal.

Highs: Breathtaking abstract songwriting that pulls you out of your body.

Lows: Don't put it on at a party -- it kills conversations faster than tear gas.

Bottom line: Barr and Marston have proved they can progress as musicians without needing to call attention to their unbelievable technical skill.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)