That the most extreme forms of metal require a certain level of patience is usually a given. From the amelodic rumble of drone-doom to the one-minute landmines of screeching violence in grindcore, the listener is best advised to allow the material a few listens to truly sink in, or in certain cases, beat his senses silly. New York progressive black metal outfit Krallice is neither as formless as the former nor as unrelenting as the latter, but they, too, offer few easy entry points. Four of the tracks on their third and latest album, Diotima, span longer than 12 minutes, and few of them offer much in the way of a break from the constant barrage of stimuli, soaring, jabbing, jackhammering its way through more than an hour of intense, harrowing metal.
Yet those 65 minutes of intense, harrowing metal supply the listener with more than a mere endurance test, but a visceral, profound sonic experience that is certainly draining, but exceptionally rewarding. Following a pair of intriguing and often stunning recordings in their self-titled debut and Dimensional Bleedthrough, Krallice continue to refine their soaring, innovative black metal approach on Diotima, deepening their layered, impenetrable structures while unfolding new and compelling elements in the process. One such element is the more prominent role of bassist Nick McMaster as a vocalist, his deep, guttural bellow complementing Mick Barr’s higher pitched, ghostly screech. And while a good portion of Krallice’s music is focused on the instrumental interplay, it’s hard to deny the kind of stunning results that arise when both vocalists come together, ricocheting off one another as they do in the final minutes of anthemic highlight “The Clearing.”
Instrumental interplay is, however, the dominant force on Diotima, and Barr and Colin Marston’s guitars are as dazzling as ever. They converge in a massive wall of distorted sound on the relatively brief (at six minutes!) “Inhume,” but play an ever more delicate role in the slower title track, harmonizing midway in a breathtaking interlude that gives way to a high-speed section of classical-influenced soloing and ultimately a sludgy section of power chords, juxtaposing relative simplicity with a technical fireworks display. Meanwhile, McMaster’s bass playing drives the heavy, throbbing pulse of “Litany of Regrets” and the melodic, oddly accessible “Telluric Rings.” The dynamic, breathtaking intro of the latter pounds with a mid-tempo, masculine energy, only partially owing its fierce power to traditional black metal while the band stretches it into their own unique, amazing shape.
Though intensity and aiming straight for the viscera may be a large part of what Krallice does, it only takes a few minutes of soaking in Diotima to fully begin to comprehend its levels of nuance and subtlety. A far cry from black metal traditionalists, Krallice shift tempo when it strikes them, intersperse their blast beat assaults with ambient interludes, pound when necessary and even yield some breathtaking moments of melody. Diotima is Krallice’s best album, but even more than that, it’s a jaw-dropping new high for extreme metal.
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