Tristan Shone’s world is one of machines. Better known as Author & Punisher, Shone has a history in engineering; it wasn’t until 2004 that he began creating industrial music with his “drone machines,” blending elements of industrial music with harsh, overwhelming bursts of noise and the dense atmosphere of doom metal. With 2018’s Beastland, Shone shifted gears, ever so slightly, to open up even more melody within his music, building further upon the chaos of his compositions.
Krüller isn’t so much an extension of this direction, but rather another mutation of Shone’s trademark sound. Here, while the cold sheen of his machines is still present, Krüller expands in atmospheric tone, presenting something warmer and more melancholic. Even with massive drums erupting, album opener “Drone Carrying Dread” is a compelling shift in sound. The droning of his ever-present machines remains, but there’s an added serenity conveyed through synthesizers that makes for a bizarre, yet enchanting duality. While Shone’s harsh vocal scream is still present on the record, he opts for more relatively clean singing throughout, albeit with a layer of distortion, creating this low-tone (though at times high-pitched) presence that comes across as more ethereal. The following track, “Incinerator,” offers a great balance in displaying his varying styles; the low tones of distortion droning roam among drum beats, all before the instrumentation and Shone’s voice escalate, unleashing a greater frenzy of distortion. “Centurion” changes things up even more, playing into a danceable, goth vibe which sways with catchy appeal.
Even considering the guest appearances like that of Perturbator’s James Kent and Tool’s Danny Carey and Justin Chancellor (as well as Shone’s wife, Marilia Maschion, providing vocals on “Maiden Star”), Krüller makes for Author & Punisher’s most ambitious release yet. Whereas his past material already displayed a great deal of technical finesse, Krüller demonstrates Shone’s desire to push his machines further. In creating music with complex, self-built instruments, he offers compositions that are fluid, both emotionally and technically, in their sonic flow and emotional delivery.
In the record’s thematic approach—pulling inspiration from that of sci-fi author Octavia E. Butler’s Parable series—Shone uses instrumentation to convey melancholy and struggle, of enduring and working through turmoil and striving to fight. Lyrically, he builds upon these concepts to provide further depth to Krüller’s themes. “A mother to all the things/ A mother to all the things we lost, we lost/ A bearer of all the truth/ A bearer of all the truth we wrought, we wrought.” Given the overall shift in vocal tone he uses on the album, these verses come across somber and heartfelt, even if they are surrounded by whirling electronic elements.
On Krüller, Shone has not abandoned his electronic-industrial menace, but rather, he has pushed it to create a new form of chaos. Even as the closing title track brings back the sharper, more aggressive side of Shone’s past music, there’s the feeling that something different is being conveyed. The machines, and Shone, have evolved.
A graduate of Columbia College Chicago's Creative Writing Program, Michael Pementel is a published music journalist, specializing in metal and its numerous subgenres. Along with his work for Treble and Bloody Disgusting, he has also written for Consequence of Sound, Metal Injection, Dread Central, Electronic Gaming Monthly and the Funimation blog.