KRALLICE PLAY BOTH SIDES OF THE BLACK METAL SPECTRUM ON THEIR DEBUT
Though black metal is typically associated with the cold and distant terrain of Scandinavia, its growing ubiquity has lead it to spring up worldwide, including an increasingly rich pocket of it stateside. Though it’s been present here for some time, the last year has been incredibly fruitful for USBM, leading to some of its biggest accomplishments. But a gem even among those accomplishments is the debut full length from Krallice, a Brooklyn, NY-based trio (though now a quartet when playing live) featuring members of Behold… the Arctopus, Dysrythmia and Ocrilim. Though their locale may not be BM friendly (at least not according to the Kvlt unit of the Tr00 police), Krallice manage to churn out some blackened goodness, rich in both old school textures and unique approach to the genre. The album is brilliantly layered, impressively performed, and wonderfully nuanced, giving hope to the black metal faithful that there is still the possibility of success in the genre for those that revere the True Norwegians but also long to strike their own ground. Not bad for the eponymous debut of what was initially labeled as a side project.
Those familiar – even in passing – with the bands of which Krallice is also a part (with the exception of the Metal Sucks-maligned Bloody Panda, whom Krallice drummer Lev Weinstein also plays for), one of the most intriguing parts of this album is how restrained it is. The off-the-wall six stringery of Colin Marston is seemingly absent here, or at least it is on first listen. Krallice’s virtuosity is subtle and used more for effect than for dropping jaws. Even the noodling in “Wretched Wisdom” – the album opener – is strictly for melodic effect, resulting in a rain of minor key arpeggios that eventually washes into the buildup that brings the song back to its blast-heavy base. Krallice’s performances put the album before the egos of the band members, making for a deeply affecting record that matches good musicianship with musicians that realize there’s an audience in front of them.
Just don’t go into Krallice expecting the aural rawness of Darkthrone and Burzum or the jagged wall of blast beats of Marduk, 1349, and Anaal Nathrakh. Though the record has its fair share of blasts and is awash with tremolo picking, the band doesn’t exist tear you limb from limb with the sort of apocalyptic fervor of black metal’s scowling extremists. That being said, Krallice by no means have a shortage of ingenious riffs; in fact, the whole album is essentially piling one on top of the other. The guitars are sopping with melody, leading them to be incredibly memorable and no doubt reverberating off the inside of your skull for months to come. And they’re reigned in beautifully by the drums, which benefit just as much from blazingly fast forward momentum as knowing when to fall back and let the rest of the band take the lead. And those of you bothered by the Unholy Trinity of Things That Usually Bother People With Black Metal (low-fi to no-fi production values, raspy and screeching vocals, and National Socialist ideology), none of those just-like-asparagus-it’s-an-acquired-taste hallmarks are here, with clear yet authentic sounding production values and a hefty yell that recalls screamo more than Nocturno Culto (but, as potentially excruciating as that sounds, it works exceptionally well). Yet with all these differences, there isn’t a sense that the band isn’t still completely rooted in black metal’s past, with Krallice serving as both an extended nod to their forefathers and an example of what’s still possible in the genre 20 years after its inception.
Though it most certainly has been a particularly eventful year or USBM – what with Leviathan’s Massive Conspiracy Against All Life, Averse Sefira’s Advent Parallax, and, duh, Nachtmystium’s Assassins: Black Meddle Part 1 – Krallice make a bold statement right out of the gate, proving that they can stand shoulder to shoulder with their nation’s peers in terms of quality. They also point out that black metal doesn’t have to be completely abrasive, as well as proving that using melody doesn’t mean a near-goth metal style embarrassment. And those strengths result in Krallice being a record that sticks to your ribs and keeps you wanting more. It’s easily one of the year’s best black metal albums – American or otherwise – and possibly one of the year’s best metal records – black or otherwise. Not goddamn bad for their first record.
(4 out of 5 horns)