Black metal has never been for beginners, but even for a genre whose barriers to entry are particularly forbidding, Krallice doesn’t make things easy. One of the more progressive USBM players of the past decade, the New York band pushes compositions well past the point of being simple, standalone songs, and extends them into self-contained planets of blast beats and harsh riffs. And inhabiting those planets are complex instrumental passages, with two virtuosic guitarists — Mick Barr and Colin Marston — leading the charge. It can be hard to fully grasp everything that’s going on within any single Krallice composition in one listen, but that first spin alone is too overwhelming to repeat in a timely fashion. Krallice takes patience, but there’s never been a test of endurance they haven’t yet rewarded with a stunningly immersive experience.
The band’s self-released fourth album Years Past Matter, at only an hour, is their shortest to date, though don’t confuse that as code for “most accessible.” If anything, Years Past Matter is even more dense and inscrutable than its amazing predecessor, Diotima. And the band certainly isn’t helping anything by naming each song with a series of sequential vertical lines. You know, like this: “IIIIIII”. So, already, there’s the issue of keeping track of where one is at any given time. But I’ll save you a little trouble — that’s entirely beside the point here. Much as each track is a self-contained giant of complex composition and musicianship, they all play a role in a larger solar system of impenetrable black metal.
While singling out any particular one song proves a bit tricky, largely due to the fact that these storming, pulsing titans create a much more complete whole, there are stacks upon stacks of eye-popping moments of instrumental dazzle. The second minute of “IIIIIII” jerks and shrieks with a twitchy menace. The introduction of “IIIIIIII” soars with a melodic majesty. And three and a half minutes into “IIIIIIIII,” at which point the tempo races and the band’s rhythms begin to ascend to a soaring climax, is truly something to behold.
I could go on — Krallice never skimps on the pyrotechnic musical displays. But to pinpoint every triumph is to merely provide a roadmap to each Easter egg. That Krallice maintains a fairly straightforward lineup of four dudes playing guitar, bass and drums means bearing a level of tightness and complexity that doesn’t always lend itself well to an easy hook, but invariably comes punctuated with exclamation point after exclamation point. Finding these “eureka!” moments, however, takes an hour without distractions. Only when one gives his attention fully to Years Past Matter does its glory present itself in full.
Stream: Krallice – “IIIIIII”
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.