Locrian’s André Foisy pitched his band’s new album The Clearing to me as “probably the most accessible thing we’ve done yet.” I can hear what he means, in that this album contains some of the most obviously human moments in the Chicago drone trio’s canon. The mere existence of the somnolent piano arpeggios in “Chalk Point” get Foisy and his bandmates Terence Hannum and Steven Hess as close to “pretty” as they’ve gone thus far; the fact that you may identify shards of the feeling that that “song” evokes while listening to Grails, or Bohren & der Club of Gore, or Godspeed You! Black Emperor, suggests that this combo is expanding its range of intended effects beyond queasiness.

Still, The Clearing contains some deeply fucked music, and no number of forlornly strummed acoustic guitars (“Coprolite”) can offset the disquiet that is at the core of the album. Droning synths, power electronics and guitars overlap in quiet but unyielding dissonance on “Augury in an Evaporating Tower, sucking Locrian’s unintelligible screams deep into their dark matter. Not much of anything happens melodically in a Locrian song, but Foisy, Hannum and Hess are experts at building inertia out of slow accretions of sound – check the 17-minute title track, which builds an all-consuming black cloud out of a single note, knocking on the door in stubborn Krautrock style until you’re forced to let it in. Less a band than three poets of sonic desiccation, Locrian actually get bleaker the more they layer their soundscapes.

Is The Clearing a metal album? Absolutely not. Even the two minutes of blastbeats and howling in the middle of “Augury in an Evaporating Tower” are just another part of the song’s stew. But there’s a reason why Locrian collaborate regularly with members of Nachtmystium, Yakuza and Velnias. They access the alienated moods and harsh outlook of metal’s blackest wings in distinct but complementary ways. Their sound accesses terror without rubbing our faces in it. Accessible? Not unless you listen to Merzbow on your way to work. Riveting? Completely.

(4 out of 5 horns up)


Stream The Clearing at Locrian’s Bandcamp.

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