It’s hard to listen to Krallice’s 10th studio album, Demonic Wealth, and not feel like the band is reifying their newest, strangest career phase. Ever since the release of their first four progressive black metal albums, the New York band has been in a near constant state of experimental flux, taking on technical death metal, avant garde prog metal, and even dungeon synth. The pattern up to now had been one or two styles per album pushed to their absolute limits within Krallice’s sonic aesthetic. Demonic Wealth takes a page from last year’s Mass Cathexis, which grabbed even the most embryonic musical ideas from Krallice’s back catalogue and developed them into full-fledged compositions. What’s truly shocking however is that, despite some familiar tropes, Krallice have almost completely reinvented themselves on their tenth studio album. From its recording to its actual composition, Demonic Wealth is Krallice’s most challenging, enigmatic work to date.
A lot of that mystique is owed to the process of its creation. Unlike past albums, which were nearly entirely recorded professionally with the full band present (minus some synths and vocals in later works), Demonic Wealth was recorded on several phones (for drums and vocals) and by Colin Marston alone in his Thousand Caves studio. The result is a rawer sound, with murky drums and shrieked vocals that are reminiscent of Mick Barr’s old school black metal project Beastlor. Guitars also take a back seat this time around in favor of Marston’s haunting, icy synths. It’s a move reminiscent of the track “Quadripartite Mirror Realm” off of their 2017 effort Go Be Forgotten, though their use throughout Demonic Wealth is so pronounced that it expands their compositional scope dramatically. Several tracks, like “Dilution” are dirge-like dungeon synth affairs, often balancing delicate tones and foreboding atmospheres with grace. The drumming, both acoustic and digital, endows a gravitas that transcends its humble recording while airy electric bass rounds out the sonic palette and adds another melodic dimension to the band’s new sound.
Other synth-heavy tracks like “Still” are different beasts entirely. A steady drum and bass march leads jagged, nearly industrial synths through some truly harrowing emotional spaces. It’s actually a trick the band used once before on “Litany of Regrets” from 2011’s Diotma, using a powerful sub bass and rigid drumming pattern to capitalize on the power of repetition. Demonic Wealth shows the band deftly replacing traditional metal arrangements with alternative instruments that broadens their emotional range. “Sapphire” too utilizes acoustic blast beats that propel lightly acidic synth harmonies for a unique and memorable effect. It’s chilling, atmospheric music that does ultimately resemble Krallice’s earliest work but in as esoteric a manner as the band has ever done.
When the band does let loose with their more conventional black metal assault, the results are not only impressive, but striking in contrast to the rest of the album. Cuts like “Folds of Plasma” and “Mass for the Strangled” amaze in typical Krallice fashion with their technical prowess and diverse songwriting. It’s not quite a throwback to second wave black metal, but the raw recording gives Krallice’s virtuosity a more subdued, even “kvlt” atmosphere. It’s both modern and vintage, and the sheer prominence of synths oscillates that music between beautiful and sinister with expert precision. That particular dynamic is more akin to black metal-infused Jorge Elbrecht releases like Choral Cross 002, which Krallice drummer Lev Weinstein also contributed his talents to.
Even between the more guitar focused tracks and the atmospheric synth ones, Demonic Wealth is perhaps less emotionally legible than much of Krallice’s work. It’s not that the music has less dramatic range though. Rather, the album showcases the band abstracting their sound, like refracting black metal and dungeon synth through a crystalline lens and recording the result. And ultimately the effect is memorable and complex in a way Krallice has never been before. It’s music that sinks itself into the listener and demands attention until its very end.
Nonbinary writer on the move from one hemisphere to the other. A black metal gal and prog dad.