In a way, Krallice’s music has always struck me as being about listening. Although the quartet’s music is not improvisational, its knotty intricacy and near-constant interlocking and delinking patterns suggests a group of peers in furrowed-brow concentration, summoning up individual ideas and sending them across the practice space to see how they sound in someone else’s ears. Not quite call and response, but more like fanfare and polyphony. This kind of approach means that Krallice’s music is adventurous and frequently thrilling, but also that the actual listener sometimes feels sidelined, watching the group listen to each other from across the room instead of feeling invited to the table.
Album opener “Etemenanki” spends its first two and a half minutes running through nearly the entire Krallice bag of tricks before Edwardson enters – diverging arpeggios between Mick Barr and Colin Marston, queasily oscillating bass runs from Nick McMaster, full band micro-skronk runs goosed by Lev Weinstein’s omnipresent ride cymbal, and even some legitimately thrashy hooks. Edwardson’s deep, primal vocals then present a powerful foil to the otherwise nimble instrumental work, forcing a collision between gravity and escape velocity that provides a tensile through-line for the entire album. Check the 3:42 mark for a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it straight-ahead punk beat, as if someone had smuggled a copy of Pain of Mind into Star Trek’s mirror universe and spray-painted it with a psychedelic goatee.
As with all other Krallice outings, Loüm is an exercise in both enduring awe and awed endurance, but at a wisely tight 32 minutes, more or less everything just hangs together better here than on any Krallice album not named Years Past Matter. A little after a minute into “Retrogenesis,” Edwardson leads the way into an extremely thick, pitch-shifted mini-breakdown. In fact, even though it’s the album’s shortest track, it may be the one that best encapsulates the Neurosis biosphere and applies it to Krallice’s terrain. Call it heavy metal terraforming, if you like. (I do.) Edwardson’s vocals are a powerful magnetism throughout, alternately providing the urgency of hardcore and the sky-cracking incantations of Neurosis at their most ritualistic.
The title track is probably the best song of the batch, with a heavily atmospheric outro that nods to Edwardson’s work in Tribes of Neurot, but the truly show-stopping moment comes halfway through the song, when everything drops out but a single plaintive guitar that sounds briefly like a dead ringer for the opening of My Dying Bride’s “Your River,” but quickly builds to an absolutely beautiful, mind-blowing crescendo at the 4:36 mark. It lasts maybe twenty seconds before vanishing but is no less perfect for it. “Kronus Deposed” closes out the album with some ridiculously high-fretted tapping acrobatics, backed by Edwardson’s swells of static — a suitably entropic coda for a band that lives (and thrives) in a state of near-constant agitation.
There was a run of three to four albums in the catalog of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds (The Good Son through Let Love In, possibly including Murder Ballads) where, although the focal point remained on Cave’s lecherous philosopher persona, the Bad Seeds were operating at such strength and with such incredible compositions that they almost could have run away with things without any vocals at all. Loüm is the closest that Krallice has ever come to meriting such a comparison, but the point (then with the Seeds as now with Krallice) is that we see a band careening white-hot at the pinnacle of its powers that is nevertheless propelled even further by a vocalist who sets up a sympathetic resonance with all of the band’s best assets. Dave Edwardson’s noise-fiddling and apocalyptic voice is a magnificent companion to Krallice’s jingle jangle, jingle jangle…
Do you love them?
Do Loüm love me?