Label: Hathenter/Giliad Media Band: Krallice Origin: USA
How do you even get to this level of productivity, without slacking somehow in your quality? I have no idea how they do it, but here’s the new Krallice, titled ‘Go Be Forgotten’. It’s their second full length of 2017 and one hell of a record, mixing jazzy noise with black metal and hardcore-sludge or whatever.
The band has sort of just released ‘Löum’, together with Dave Edwardson from Neurosis. You’d say that we may have slightly recovered from that piece of work. This is the latest and it actually made it to various end of year lists. Good on you guys, I’d say. I was just a bit baffled after listening to it because these New Yorkers rarely make for an easy listen.
It seems like Krallice is moving in the direction of noise or even something akin to industrial, with the gritty beats on ‘This Forest For Which We Have Killed’. A solid layer of bass forms, like a curtain of pulverized glass or construction residue. Beyond that layer is space, for the vocals to bark into the void. Relentless aptly describes the flow of fury that Krallice directs at the listener. Frantically paced and never opening up for a breath, the band sounds more and more like a blend of hardcore, noise and black metal to me.
Remarkably, a grand experience can also be a part of that violent, abrasive sound. The title track embraces big arches and soaring synths. The wide contrast opens up a whole new space for Krallice to play in. The sound explores restlessness, dynamics, and complex structures, sometimes verging on jazz even? The 10-minute onslaught of ‘Ground Prayer’ for example, seems to meander from different pace as much as in intensity, with every new measure, while the vocals keep insistently barking at you.
Krallice may be one of the most intense and surprising bands out there and like every one of their records, this may take you some time to wrap your head around.
Sometimes you simply can’t cover it all, but you still want to. Because of that I’m going to do a round up of some releases, that have gotten plenty of coverage elsewhere. Why do I then still cover them? Well, because I feel it is my duty in a peculiar way to say something about Krallice, AshBorer and Bölzer.
Krallice – Prelapsarian
Label: Gilead Media Origin: United States
Though Krallice can be a bit too chaotic for me at times, they are one of the most interesting bands out there. They’ve been very productive, releasing an album in 2015 and an EP in 2016 and then suddenly here’s another full lenght with four rabid, mesmerizing tracks. The sheer intensity with which Krallice delivers their songs is uncanny. Shouted vocals, more akin to a Converge (‘Hate Power’) combined with riffs that at times (‘Transformation Chronicles’) feel more Dragonforce-like at times. The eclectic combinations the band makes is in a way what makes them so interesting, though on this record they are more returning to the frantic black metal sound Krallice originates from. The music constantly shifts pace and surprises you at every turn. The mix is great and the record is great, what more do you want me to say about this?
Ash Borer – The Irrepassable Gate
Label: Profound Lore Records Origin: United States
Ash Borer is in a league of their own when it comes to creating densely atmospheric black metal with a majestic streak to it. Filled with ambient elements, to create an all overpowering sound, the band is heavier than thou and irredeemably good on this offering. The doomy overtones with the subterranean drumming are a constant battery for your nerves. The cacophony of noise the band unleashes here and there helps to create the right vibe of a sound that is much more natural and real than that of your average Satan worshipping black metallers. The grandeur and consistency in which Ash Borer weaves their aural patterns is not unlike bands such as Wolves In The Throne Room, Balancing between the ferocity of USBM and the complete sound of Cascadian black metal, Ash Borer shows themselves to be a class apart on the general BM firmament.
Bölzer – HERO
Label: Iron Bonehead Origin: Switzerland
I have felt conflicted about the Swiss duo, mainly due to their ridiculous reclamatin of various nazi-symbols. It seemed so boneheaded to me, that I just wasn’t sure what to make of it. Having seen the band perform live twice, I think there’s a good reason to do write about this odd duo. Why then? Because they are incredible! Sure, live their sound gets a bit muddled and loses any sort of semblance of subtlety. Still, the ‘world-eating’ sound (as read in band bio) is a thunderous, unstoppable force. Chosing minimal means, does not mean an artist limits himself. Also adding clean vocals, Bölzer sound like heathen, barbarian kings on ‘HERO’. A display of thunderous rhythms and remarkably noticable guitar melodies. On a track like ‘Hero’, that makes the men sound like titans. Big muscular riffs and booming vocals. I still don’t understand their strange love for the sun wheel and wolfsangel, but on the other hand I get the stubborn position behind it. The whole record is a bull headed effort to wring out epic sounds of minimal means. They sure do pull that off!
There have been numerous sounds from the underground worthy of capture like Toska, Protean, Der Weg Einer Freiheit and Krallice. This one packs a punch!
Toska –Toska Self Released
The band Toska is inspired by poetry of Tadeusz Micinski, a polish poet, gnostic and playwright who was an early expressionist or even surrealist. That’s about all there is known about the black metal band, which surprisingly is not from Poland or anywhere around, but from Iceland. This is the debut of the band, which only came out very recently this year (2015). Let’s check it out.
There’s a cold in the sound of the band, like you can feel in the air when frost is approaching. It becomes clear, while the tracks pass by, that there’s a certain amount of electronics involved in the production of this bit of music, which gives it a particular industrial-like cold feeling. The drums therefor lack the organic, furious feel that you’d expect. They feel too tight, to automatic. Some weird samples of keys are played through the music at a very low volume. This is rather peculiar and a bit spooky. Regardles of all that, the music is intense, full and like a blizzard storm in aural form. If you like you black metal cold and technical, this is the record for you.
Protean – The BurningCenturies Beverina Productions
Protean is a Latvian band with (former) members of various bands from the Baltic state, such as Eschatos, Urskumug, Frailty, Grondh and many others. Guest contributions were made by no other than the guys from Skyforger, making this a bit of an all-star record for extreme metal LV. Protean is a musical project that takes a journey through the history of warfare, mythology and legends. From the Punic Wars to the Hungarian Black Legions clash with the Ottoman turks, the longboats of the north and ancient Latvian myths. This is very promising material.
What we get is a clean production and sound that is big and mean. Protean embodies the sound of battle, history and a passion for metal in one furious ball of force. From the chanting on ‘Bringer of Fear’ to its thunderous main song, it resembles the more bold and heavy in the blackened genre, like Behemoth (which I find it resembles a lot). The focus is on atmosphere and grandeur, without much regard of genre boundaries, which is something I love in Latvian metal. The clean singing on ‘Swordwraith’ for example, gives a power metal like vibe combined with machine gun drums. It makes it sound big and honest. I particularly like the long track ‘The Longships Are Burning’, which is a bit of a nod to good old Unleashed and their beer guzzling favorite. A long track full of ambiance of Opeth-y guitar play and brutal bursts like a reign of fire. It shows a feeling for the dramatic as well as great musicianship. This whole album is a demonstration of strenght, a tour de force if you will, of a group of musicians that is highly talented. I feel like I’m just the jackass that wants to tell you that… Please listen to this band.
Der Weg Einer Freiheit – Stellar Season of Mist
This German black metal band was one of those that I missed out on on Roadburn. I thought, judging by the name, that this was some sort of post-apocalyptic folk ensemble. Yeah, you know the kind. Nothing of the kind however, but brutal, icy and melodic black metal (yes, all of that). The band from Würzburg is inspired by philosophy, death and life in their music and has 3 records under their belt this far. Yes I know that ‘Stellar’ has been out for almost 9 months, but have you heard this record? How could I not include it in this section of my website.
The sound of this band is like a warm bath with ice storms. The music provides the bath in the sense that its full and soothing with some major elements creating that immersion. Thematically and through the vocals and hard hooks there’s the storm, stirring unease in the general pool of sound. There’s blistering fury in the sound, but also the anticipation in the calm parts of ‘Repulsion’. Then there’s the catharsis and bliss united in ‘Einkehr’, a chastizing pilgrimage into destruction, total annihilation of the self. Closer is one beautiful and harrowing soundscape, under the title ‘Letzte Sonne’.
Krallice – Hyperion Independent
I feel like I’ve just finished with the previous full length titled Ygg-Huur, which I discussed in #19 of Sounds of the Underground, and then this band of rascalls from New York suddenly drops another one. Hyperion was recorded back in 2013, but only now is released on bandcamp. An interesting mention on bandcamp was the comparison to Sonic Youth, which is hard to distiniguish, but definitely present in the experimental sound of the group. It’s their way of saying Happy New Year I suppose.
The cover shows what appears to be a mountain range or maybe water? It speaks to the imagination, like the music of Hyperion. Blistering, radical twists open up the grandeur of the title track, with roaring drums and intense blasts. The band is like an uncoming storm, taking the most surprising twists and turns in their sound and obliterating any opposition. I can not understand how someone would not classify this as black metal’s next evolutionairy fase. The inspiration for the almost cacophonic, primordial ceremony that is performed on ‘The Guilt of Time’ makes you think of Lovecraftian sources, with copper beaten, clanging and grinding distortion. Krallice proves that they’re here to stay.
I dislike the idea of anything being hipster. Unfortunately that means I’ve become victim to the hipster virus, where anything gaining popularity demands you to look onto others as hipsters.
Any semi-homogenous crowd, except that on the weekly market, that seems to conform to any fashion/aesthetic standards that are slightly popular is nowadays dubbed hipster. Fashioncore was the equivalent in the hardcore/metalcore corner. It seems to be the origin of the hipster curse for the heavy underground. At first you were fake or real (or trve if you’re more into the black metal section). Hipster sounds slightly better than fake, but no one will ever call themselves a hipster.
The term hipster has been the topic of discussion on many levels. In 2008 one magazine declared this to be the dead end of western civilization (a nice reference to the Spheeris films), by becoming an aesthetic vacuum in the counter culture. Some sources, like NY Mag seemd to have lost the plot totally in 2010 and Rob Horning suggested the death of the hipster in 2009. Around that time, the turning point seems to have arrived: the hipster was a demon, taking away the particular from our favorite elements of counter cultural rebellion. At the same time it became an aesthetic, a way to define what was basically just current fashion and trend when applied to an alternative image. Hipsters still provide an outlet for an alternative-styled elitism (like NOFX even demonstrated) and a scape goat, even by the Guardian.
I certainly don’t feel I’m a hipster, but I do have one of those single-speed bikes, fashionable boots and I tend to wear the flanel shirts, which I guess I’ve been doing since the late nineties (I was too young for the grunge hype). I’m not into the more hip alternative stuff though, don’t go to the right parties and rarely hang out in coffee bars (though I love coffee, but then again, I did for half my life). I did recently figure out that I do listen to some of the wrong bands in the heavy alternative spectrum. Not the fashioncore of hardcore, I listen to the true stuff there and my Black Flag tattoo is big enough to show it ain’t a ‘once upon a time, while sipping my vegan late’ thing. I was listening to hipster metal bands like Wolves In The Throne Room, Krallice, Deafheaven and Altar of Plagues.
The metal subculture has always been obsessed with being genuine, authentic as Kahn-Harris (2007) is keen to point out in his book. There’s an almost fundamentelistic nature to the more extreme genres and for none it’s as strong as that of black metal. Honestly, to describe a genre so remote from anything mainstream as ‘hipster’ seems to be certainly far fetched, but it is true… And it has some definite roots according to black metal scholar Dayal Patterson (2013), who starts the history of post-blackmetal with Lifelover. Bands that take a new approach to the genre and changing it, challenging its norms.
The origins of the term are a bit vague, but to me postrock, post-metal and so even post-blackmetal are styles that take a different approach to the core aesthetics of the respective genres and taking inspiration from others. The focus is more on dynamics, repetition and timbre, moving away from the traditional style. Ironically, the same thing happened when black metal moved towards the SDBM or DSBM style (Depressed Suicidal Black Metal), which has always been accepted. Stylistically, they are not so different. On the other hand, bands like Manes, Fleurety and even Arcturus could be seen as an affront to the conservative element in the scene, but apparently they’re fine.
True Traitor, True Whore
Yes, the Leviathan album title seems to be apt to come to the true traitor of black metal (in the eyes of some). Leviathan is true, though I’m not sure how his (it’s after all Jeff Whitehead’s one man band) ‘Scar Sighted’ goes down with part of the crowd. “Why not?”, you may ask. Well, because the record pushes out the boundaries of the genre, it changes the aesthetic approach and that is exactly why a band like Deafheaven is so reviled by the purists. In an AP article on the hipster metal phenomenon, they are the first band to be mentioned. Now, why are they the great Judas, the Varg Vikernes in the story of true and false black metal? (you know, like the band that did everything wrong, like Burzum, who are now also kinda hip).
The album cover
Deafheaven in all their infernal badness, their disregard for all that is trve and kvlt, released an album with a pinkish cover. PINK! In a genre that wishes to shock and cause controversy, this is just pushing it one step too far (for the scene itself apparently).
The music is not grimdark frostbitten cold
There’s a big myth about the early black metal bands and the necro sound. The idea is that this was the true (sorry, trve?) sound, but it basically was due to money and resources. Many current albums have great production, though perhaps retaining more of the cold sound usually. Still, you can hardly call the last two Enslaved albums unaccesible thanks to a more open polish.
Too many shoegazes and postrocks
Yeah, there is a whole subgenre called eatmospheric black metal, which utilizes the same techniques, just like the ambient black metal genre, but Deafheaven sounds almost pleasant. Anyone ever listened to Woods Of Desolation or A Forest of Stars. Even Winterfylleth retains some warmth and dreamy aspects in their sound. Anyways, the fucking problem is that this album does not sound like either ‘A Blaze In The Northern Sky’, nor as ‘In the Nightside Eclipse’. Shame on you! But seriously, the genre has such a rich range of sounds, why refuse to change?
The band doesn’t like/isn’t/hates/can’t be metal
The dumbest argument for hating Deafheaven is that somehow they would not be metal. Play this album for your mom and see how she feels about that. Well, my mom probably digs it so I’m not sure if that’s representative, but this band is totally a metal band. The fact that they might listen to other music, as said in this interview, doesn’t take anything away from that.
They don’t look metal
A lot of bands don’t do. What is looking like metal exactly? Isn’t that the complete form of conformism that metal despises? I have no clue what, apart from the obligatory preference for black (check for Deafheaven) and the bandshirts (check again) would compromise a metal outfit. It sure as hell isn’t spandex and corpse paint any more, who the hell still does that?
So yeah, Deafheaven isn’t like the past five decades of metal, just like any band from the nineties didn’t look like the eighties nor sounded like it. Maybe it’s an entry level band for kids looking for something more dense and mysterious, which you may find in black metal. Does that make them bad? The black metal fans who trade cassettes of which only 5 are released from bands using My First Sony equipment are few and not even touched by this kind of audience. Wouldn’t it be cool though if you could release 10 cassettes?
Kick in the arse of stale elitism
Why all this fuss about an album that came out a year ago? Well, that is true. ‘Sunbather, may its infernal name be wiped from the histories, has been out for a year or so. The thing is that the band just released a new song and the hipster metal debate is in full swing again, because all this progression of the genre, we can’t have it.
The Deafheaven debate is part of a bigger discussion on metal and its health. The articles asking if metal is dead have started popping up and with good reason. What great bands have arisen in recent years that everyone knows and discusses? Very little, we only have bands that are reviled, like Deafheaven. There’s a vacuüm in heavy metal in general, which is illustrated by the fact that Slayer, Iron Maiden and Metallica are still the perpetual headliners. What else sticks? Babymetal?
The elitist conservatism is slowly killing black metal, once one of the most creative, subversive and exciting genres out there. Embrace the changes or leave them be, but stop putting everything down. Metal needs to breathe, develop and be allowed to find new avenues. With even the mighty Lemmy Kilmister slowing down, it’s high time for some growth and renewal. Even Lemmy can’t carry this torch any longer. The elitism in metal is killing it, like it does with the French language.
As for hipsters, how was metal ever a genre for people that are hip and happening? Aren’t hipsters slowly becoming the social outcasts anyways? The outsider position of metal fans is not going to change, not even by Deafheavens ‘Sunbather’ or a new album, which I think might be a very good one.
Kahn-Harris (2007) Extreme Metal Horning (2009) The Death of the Hipster. Pop Matters Patterson (2013) Black Metal: Evolution of the Cult Stewart-Panko (2015) Debunking the ‘hipster metal’ myth. Alternative Press
This time I listened to underground sounds by sound artist Honda, ambient warriors Elador, black metal knight MoonKnight and the mighty Krallice. Plenty of stuff you should check out too.
Honda – Bells Beach
I use a lot of means to find music, but rarely the search option on bandcamp. Today I did and I picked the ‘devotional’ category. I was expecting Jesus stuff. I got this wonderful minimal/ambient recording. It has two sides and is made by an artist named Celer, actual name William Thomas Long, who lives in Japan. It was made with a Roland MC-202 Microcomposer and field recordings. It feels like a travel record, a description of landscapes in an aural way.
Side A feels minimal, just little bells in a wide landscape where the wind is blowing. Playful moments are exchanged with mild ambient noise and gentle wavy sounds. The sound appears to be blowing away a little bit now and then, adding tot he organic feel of the music. Side B has those astral projection like synth rays, remniscent of krautrock and Jean Michel Jarre. Buzzing drones and twinkly keys fill the sound up, on this much more energetic and vibrant track. This record feels special, warm and pleasant. A recommended listen for late night reading or enjoying a drink without the TV on.
Elador – Expanses of Syrim
Well, I’m a fan of Skyrim so I was intrigued if any concept band had been working on that theme this far. Sometimes you find the odd death metal band picking up on a thing like this. I found a load of covers or rip offs (some Vietnamese guy claims to be Lindsey Stirling). This Russian project is from Egor Morozov, who is inspired by epic ambient/medieval projects like Mantle Of Dust, soundtracks like those by Jeremy Soule (yes, Skyrim guy) and other similar projects. The logo’s used do show an influence from the black metal scene. Think Clanned, think Burzum… You’ve got it.
The soothing music feels cold at times, depicting the landscapes of Skyrima nd specific regions. The languid tones are nordic in atmosphere and other sound effects breathe life into the music by Elador. The gloomy ‘Folgunthur’ stands our for me, for its minimal and dark atmosphere, where the other tracks feel mildly playful. The trickling sound of ‘Snowfall in Winterhold’, the wavering of ‘Dawnstar’ and the gentle feel to the track ‘Rivenwood’, it all paints the landscape in aural perceptions. The latter makes you feel the gentle look, the simple habitations and the wind rustling through the trees. Elador captures Skyrims essence beautifully in this tribute.
MoonKnight – Valinor
This obscure one-man black metal band provides the listener with a particular dirty and grim type of black metal. MoonKnight is the project of Roach (James L. Brown) from Kentucky. Claiming to be influenced by Akita, Bone Awl and Ildjarn, this is the third full lenght from the project, after a series of splits. The sound is gritty, distorted and hazy. As if hearing music through a hail storm. The vocals therefor come from afar and the listener is challenged to really embrace the sound, entering the storm on opener ‘An Initiation’. It only clears up a bit when the intro notes of ‘Aconitum’ soar in, feeling cold and sharp.
The trebly, high guitar tones on ‘Helplessness’ create a cold atmosphere. The screeched vocals filled with despair, raging against that torrent of grainy sound that feels very lo-fi. The drum is just a rumble under your feet. Then there’s the warm rain of the title track, creating a strange after effect, following the bleak songs like ‘Broken Blade’ and the bludgeoning ‘Pleasure Funeral’. The slow epic final song is a crescendo to this powerful record. No need for tons of extra effects, synths. A one man metal band that knows how to make limitations in strenghts by not overdoing it. Thats why this is such a good record.
Krallice – Ygg Huur
Sure, I was going for somet different sounds this time, but then I came across thenew Krallice album. I used to think of Krallice as too fierce for my tastes, but the new Yorkers surprised with this new record. I always have a hard time with the word ‘hipster metal’. I feel it makes no sense when you deal with a band that creates atmosphere like the best of them. The sound is more clean, but just as harrowing. The jagged pace, keeps tensions high and creates a vibe of discomfort.
So, I couldn’t get into what they were doing before. I guess it was too smart, too complex and lacked a certain feel to it. That’s no what you get on Ygg Huur. Razing fast guitars, tremolo picking are enriched by deep emotions of despair and untamed wiredness. Blistering speed and incredible atmospheric wavering tremolo parts, generate an unheared of like vibe. Sudden assaults after seemingly ethearal calm. This is one amazing album. Clocking only 35 mins, nothing is overdone on this release. Everything in balance and fuck that hipster tag. Krallice know how to make a great record and put black metal on the road to recovery.