On January 1, 2016, Krallice released their unexpectedly concise Hyperion EP, starting off the year with the kind of intellectual black metal that would ordinarily signal promising, positively challenging things for the 12 months to come—if only symbolically, and on a pretty small scale at that. As it turned out, 2016 would prove to be challenging, but in all the wrong ways, ushering in an almost comically awful annual cycle of awfulness. In that sense, some new, intense black metal would seem like a much-needed prescription for the kind of frustration and malaise that followed in the months to come. And in the case of Krallice, even for such a relatively brief release, that would inevitably mean decoding and unlocking the secrets within their intricate compositions. If 2016 was riddled with the most demoralizing kinds of challenges, Krallice, for their part, at least offered something productive to channel that frustration.
With the Winter Solstice release of Prelapsarian, the group’s follow-up to their 2015 album Ygg Huur, Krallice once again provide a compelling bookend to the year, closing it out with a comparably dynamic set of labyrinthine metal. Yet as the band’s album durations continue to drop below the necessary single-LP time constraints, their vision hasn’t been limited in the slightest. Krallice’s music is as complex and soaring as ever, each 10-plus minute journey—of which there are two here—offering more ideas in a single progression than most black metal bands might have in their entire career. That’s partially a result of their way with rhythm; the time-signatures bend and twist like some grand, demonic vertebral staircase yet somehow never lose their forward momentum as a result. To hear the back and forth between moments of eerie melodicism and rhythmic chaos on closing epic “Lotus Throne” feels both invigorating and uneasy. It’s what Krallice does best.
As a preview for the release of new album Prelapsarian, however, Krallice took it a step further by releasing “Hate Power,” their most explicit socio-political statement, in response to the incidents of hate crimes and fearmongering that erupted throughout the presidential campaign season and resulted in the election of Donald Trump. In just under four minutes, the band unleashes one of their most straightforward black metal assaults—a rarity in and of itself—coupled with the kind of social commentary that often evades black metal: “Your hate is nothing but fear-induced arrogance/Addicts of emotional response.” It’s a rare moment of directness from a band whose music is often anything but. It’s refreshing, certainly, but above all, it’s admirable.
The arrival of Prelapsarian just as the calendar turns over provides another symbolic moment of rebirth, though not necessarily in terms of Krallice’s sonic approach. They’re still the challenging, complicated and utterly essential black metal art band they’ve always been. Yet the message within Prelapsarian feels different, in a way. That “Hate Power” so vehemently condemns a perspective that a small (and for that matter overblown) faction within black metal would praise is significant. But Krallice also close out their latest release with a statement about cyclical renewal and rebirth itself: ”Presence of life/Eternal rebirth/In the green and gold.” We’ve entered a strange time in history, one whose final draft has yet to be determined. Krallice, against some of their most intense and frenzied compositions yet, offer an unexpectedly spiritual and clear-eyed document to guide us through our descent into its cavernous abyss.