Originally written by Ramar Pittance
Maybe we’re at odds with these sounds because we’re not sure where they come from.
Maybe we think we know, though. Maybe we hear the decades of refinement in guitarist Mick Barr’s playing. We know about the endless stream of esoteria he releases through a revolving list of projects. And we think, “I know this game.” Another dilettante who knows the sounds but doesn’t understand them, so he stands a few steps removed and plays and laughs and passes and is rewarded by critics who could stand to learn a thing or two.
And so this is what we hear at around the 7:00 mark of 16:41-long song titled “IIIIIIIIIIII (track 6)” when all of Krallice’s supposed skill and compositional prowess coalesces into a miasma of unbearable noise and we think that this surely must be some sort of post-modern ruse.
But there are other places to look. Where we’ll find Barr’s monastic devotion to the discipline of guitar playing as an intensely personal crucible. Where we find the man who only plays one guitar because he’s still being guided through its flaws and because his second guitar hasn’t yet earned his respect. A man who doesn’t practice through an amp because it’s the notes that matter more than the sound.
And, maybe that’s what we hear in the rich melodic counterpoint of “IIIIIIII (track 3),” where high and low registers battle for purchase through pulses of sonic energy that were first conceived in a mind and then refined through harsh praxis.
But maybe instead we’d rather think about Colin Marston. The engineer. Maybe we think about his Warr Guitar. And his prog-death-metal. And the parade of h-words who march through his studio and lavish him with praise and admiration for his abundant talent. And maybe he thinks he could walk right in and play our music with all that talent, but where is the hate?
And when we’ve lost the plot somewhere amid one of these tracks that I’m not even going to dignify by naming, this is what we feel.
But doesn’t Years Past Matter sound just like it should? With everything in its place. The bass guitar is rolling beneath waves upon waves of bleating tremolo while the drummer attacks his kit harder and for longer than anyone with a heart and arms made from the same stuff as yours and mine should be able to do anything. And that’s the producer who gets it to sound that way. And that’s the product of work.
But here’s a question: Why do we need to know where these sounds come from? We will feel these sounds, or we we will not. Maybe, too often, these sounds don’t sound good.
Then consider spending some time with “IIIIIIIII (track 3),” a song that animates all of Krallice’s brilliance. It is 12 minutes of movement, of those tremolo guitars surging in orchestral unison and pausing briefly to introduce melodic themes that then retreat and return with greater vigor. The key theme is introduced at the 5:50 mark, but it’s only a feint. It returns two minutes later to draw the song to conclusion, this time accompanied by Nick McMaster’s indispensable bass. The crescendo recedes beneath sheets of distant choral noise, which can best described as all of Krallice’s sound and fury flattened into a single wave.
And so, if you want to talk about the music, and only the music, that’s where you start. Concede that even in a vacuum, Krallice is a difficult band. And a cold one. One that assaults the listener with data and leaves them to sift through the sound in search for meaning. Years Past Matter, their latest, gives life to their uncompromising approach. And you’re not wrong if you feel all that precision and disdain for the easy way putting up a wall between you and the band, as it may well on “IIIIIIIIII (track 4).”
But Krallice is composing material that can be unpacked and internalized in a way that is distinctly meaningful to fans of black metal. Maybe the hate isn’t there, but the longing is. The weeping melodies of “IIIIIII (track 1)” bear the band’s debt to professed influences like Drudkh and Hate Forest. Those melodies are set in sharp relief against the ceaseless inward drive of Marston’s and Barr’s claustrophobic riffing, which pays tribute to the influence of New York Death Metal and conjures the suffocating immensity of the city itself. And when these influences live in concert, Krallice is able to occupy a niche entirely their own.
It feels unlikely that Years Past Matter will change anyone’s opinion aboutKrallice. Released little more than a year after 2011’s divisive Diotima, it explores similar terrain, though compositions are allowed a bit more space to swell and breathe. That ever-encroaching maze has been shattered and set adrift in the void. Krallice’s strongest hand is still in gracefully introducing and refining melodic themes, coloring them with dissonant counterpoints, and creating moments of propulsive grandeur that are earned through hard alchemy. The finest example of this on Years Past Matter, and maybe the greatest moment overall since the title track ofDimensional Bleedthrough, comes in the closing two minutes of the album — a true reward and suggestion that Krallice can occasionally delight in fulfilling a promise. Where they earn criticism is in building and building those walls of harsh noise. Can we climb those walls? Maybe it depends on where we find the band.