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Years Past Matter: Krallice’s Densest Layer Cake Yet

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As has become tradition, Krallice’s music on Years Past Matter is densely wound, long-winded and overwhelming. They’ve amped up the head-scratching even further by withholding lyrics and trading standard song titles for varying quantities of the letter “I” (or the roman numeral “I”). But by album number four, it’s clear that Krallice aren’t going for deliberate inscrutability; in fact, they probably don’t give a banshee’s buttocks what we read into all these incidental choices. This band is about the emotional gestalt, the totality of their music. And while Years Past Matter can be maddening in how few easy handouts it gives us listeners, Krallice have recorded their most rewarding album to date simply by being themselves: relentless, irritating, inventive, virtuosic, arrogant and totally transformative.

You could say that Years Past Matter takes a while to fully absorb, but really it takes a while to absorb you. Mick Barr and Colin Marston’s patented guitar polyphony work in sheets and squalls, sometimes blanketing the audio canvas with thick harmonies (“IIIIIIII”), other times working in prickly counterpoint (the break halfway through “IIIIIIIIII”). There are bursts of small guitar licks in every piece that, if repeated and closed off, could form the basis of a killer black metal song. But Krallice are not in the business of hook-writing. As soon as a great idea shows up, it’s manipulated and subsumed by the band’s torrential force. Krallice aren’t writing songs here so much as small-scale metallic symphonies, and they care much more about their development sections than their themes.

That restless evolution flows through every song on Years Past Matter, each of which is in a constant state of flux. “IIIIIII” careens from section to section, drummer Lev Weinstein rarely playing the same pattern underneath the same melodic bit twice; the entire second half of “IIIIIIIIII” goes from mournful to frantic to supremely heavy without losing a whit of urgency. Many have pointed to the closer “IIIIIIIIIIII” as being one of the most thrilling pieces that Krallice have ever recorded. And they’re right – it’s a hailstorm of energy and shimmering color, and it keeps on piling on more and more tension before erupting into its manic coda. Those who accuse Krallice of drawing out their songs too long ignore how adroitly the band builds and maintains momentum. Years Past Matter can get tiring, but it’s never boring.

Unlike so many guitar-centric black metal bands, Krallice compositions divide responsibility equally among the band’s four members. Weinstein and bassist Nick McMaster are colorists just as much as the other two, their layers just as essential to the overall effect as the guitars. Of course, this music is so all-encompassing that it renders individual achievements moot. McMaster’s roar and Barr’s shriek serve the same purpose as every other instrumental passage – another gust in this glorious wind tunnel of a record.

Krallice’s Years Past Matter is out now. Buy it at their Bandcamp.

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