Krallice inspires intense reaction. Not just from metal gatekeepers pounding on keyboards — does anyone actually care about them anyway? — but our emotional response to machine-like music that zooms down sharp vistas and zags upward towards impossibility.
In a decade and change of progressively knotty metal — at first indebted to black metal, but quickly ingesting thrash, doom, tech-death, powerviolence, punk — the NYC band has become the standard-obliterating-bearer of the metallic avant-garde. And I mean that in the literal sense: Krallice doesn’t iterate avant-metal tropes like so many others gettin’ weird for weird’s sake, it advances. And as Mick Barr, Colin Marston, Nicholas McMaster and Lev Weinstein have become better musicians and composers, they’ve also become more in tune with the emotion their ecstatic music elicits.
Which brings me to a YouTube react video, typically the millennial-content-made stuff of tweens or grandmas done for the lulz or the aww’s. A composer (of what, I didn’t bother to find out) was assigned Krallice’s “Monolith of Possession” from 2009’s Dimensional Bleedthrough, to critique in real time. He endured the 19-minute track, made legitimate remarks about the band’s compositional choices, and was generally in awe of what repeatedly refers to as “art house” even if he didn’t particularly enjoy the music itself. Then he said something that’s stuck with me: “They have to stop eventually; they’re humans.”
Those early Krallice albums indulged in repetition and length almost to an absurd degree, its slight variations in riff, speed and propulsion consistent with that of a jackhammer pausing a moment to crack open asphalt just a few feet over. The relentlessness was the point, a super-human means to crack open the void. Over time, Krallice has trimmed those track times, but not necessarily the amount of information put into them.
Mass Cathexis, true to the title’s name, concentrates the sprawling vacuum of Krallice space, as debris from its entire catalog swarms toward the center. Released with little warning, as has been the band’s method for the past 5 years, no track exceeds 6 minutes. Speeding black-metal riffs are tightly wound to spring into pinch-harmonic squeals and gravity-defying mania (“Feed on the Blood of Rats”), cascades of Chuck Schuldiner acrobatics entangle with dramatically melodic bass and high-fret fusion (“Set”) and keyboards, while not new to Krallice, foreground the Gothic shades always underlying the band’s most extravagant work (“The Myth” and “The Form”). “The Formed,” in its controlled dosage of blast-beaten sublimity offset by counter-melodies upon counter-melodies, is among Krallice’s most realized pieces.
There’s a sense that, given more time outside of a pandemic, Krallice might have toyed and tinkered with these tracks. If we ever get to experience live music again, maybe Mass Cathexis will become a living being, spurting unsightly limbs that connect the whole. But what a thrill, in these comparatively shorter songs, for Krallice not to stop the chaotic intensity of its music, but enliven it. — Lars Gotrich
Duma, Duma (Nyege Nyege Tapes): Where to even start with this one? Trace elements of grindcore, breakcore, deathcore, trap, drone, black metal, Afrobeat and Nyege Nyege Tapes’ reliably chest-bursting beats make for a chaotic corrosive truly unlike anything I’ve heard in extreme music. In Dumas, the Nairobi duo manifests an inner turmoil to express an outward horror, but in order to exact positive change. Or, as guitarist/producer Sam Karugu told Tone Glow, “The sound that we have is African, it’s metal, it’s all guts on the table.”
Acerus, The Tertiary Rite (Nameless Grave): It somehow escaped me that Daniel Corchado, the guitarist from Mexican death-metal monsters The Chasm, has a trad heavy metal band that freaking R I P S. Iron Maiden, Mercyful Fate and Manilla Road moves abound — the vocalist even has a rugged range a la Mark “The Shark” Shelton — but, my god, the riffs. Spiraling, melodic and daring all at once, Corchado works a serious toolkit, but is never above a fist-pumping chug when it serves the song.
Conflicted / Catsick, SPLIT (PermCityPunk): Russian hardcore got me hooked. Maybe I’ll do an entire newsletter dedicated to that scene, but for now, a split between Conflicted (from Perm, a good 1500 km east of Moscow) and New Zealand’s Catsick. With bass way out front in the mix (my favorite hallmark of a good ’90s throwback), razor guitar riffs and a well-placed gang vocal here and there, Conflicted doesn’t spend much time setting up or taking down: five one-minute songs that keep it posi, на русском. (At least what I can remember from my piss-poor college years taking Russian.) Catsick, on the other hand, got a Dead Kennedys-style wild hair about them.
Undveld, Figures of Past (Perfect Aesthetics): Gripped the latest batch from this Russian label (what is it with me and Russian tape labels lately?). Undveld is a Lithuanian drone/ambient artist who favors loooooooong tones on mooooooody chords, so it’s exactly my thing. There are a couple industrial tracks that pulse subliminal beats, but mostly this tape captures a Blade Runner mysticism.
Bloodmist, Phos (5049): Painkiller, but make it John Carpenter. The horror-prov (slasher-prov?) trio of Jeremiah Cymerman (clarinet, electronics, synths), Mario Diaz de Leon (synths, drum machine) and Kayo Dot’s Toby Driver (bass) dig deeper into the darkness for its second album. As if to score an alternate, dark-ambient soundtrack to Nicolas Cage’s unhinged performance in Mandy, three-dimensional sound hangs in the air like a stupidly oversized chainsaw, its impact felt in excruciating slow motion. Track titles were inspired by Annihilation, but whatever, this is Mandy.
SISSYFIT, Make ‘Em Pay + Lilith (Moon Decay): Head-stompin’ hardcore from Stockton, California. Heavy on the pit-swarming swagger and a seared-venom vocal performance by Breanna Rae, who knows her way around a killer couplet: “Satan is a woman and she’s sick / Of your high and mighty bulls***.” Collects the 2018 demo + new songs.
A tinsta? I have an Instagram account where I write about my tape collection. Sometimes it’s noise and drone, but I also get heavy into Christian punk/rock/pop nostalgia, so I don’t apologize in advance.
20 tracks. We start with Unwound’s “Corpse Pose,” featuring one of Vern Rumsey’s most melodically twisted bass lines; he died last week and I still can’t believe it. “Something in the Way” is not a cover of my favorite Nirvana song, but some typically screwy and hooky indie-pop from Palberta. Lo Tom — where Pedro the Lion’s David Bazan, Starflyer 59’s Jason Martin and pals hang loose — layers rock and roll like a heavy overcoat in the summer heat. Free-jazz ramble-bramble from Alan Braufman that takes brief moments to cohere into a front line. Estonian cowpokes Holy Motors lean into a twang dream. Armani Caesar gets a primo DJ Premier beat. Khemmis covers Alice in Chains because duh. Has Damian Master been listening to Down or is that riff just dripping New Orleans?
What: What It Takes Hardcore Blog (Instagram account)
Why: There’s a soft spot in my heart for fanzine-style prose. It is both gushy and nit-picky at once, picking up on nuances of a riff, scream or a one-two beat that a seasoned critic isn’t necessarily listening for. I’m buying print zines again, which has been an absolute joy, but there’s an instant gratification found on this fan-run “blog,” really a micro-zine via Instagram. I’ve already been turned onto a bunch of new-to-me bands (Poland’s Future, U.K.’s Wise Up, Russia’s Will to Win) in a no-frills format: album artwork + short reviews + Bandcamp link.