Review Summary: Krallice's first self-released album is a testament to the kind of power they can achieve on their own standards, rules and merits.
When a band breaks away from a label and pursues their own self-released music, there's usually one of a couple different ways it can go: One, everyone realizes that they've been listening to a label's "product" this whole time and didn't even know it, or two, the band gives us a glimpse of what it's like for musicians to work completely within their own bounds and rules. I'd like to think that with Krallice's Years Past Matter
it's by and large the second case.
Since Krallice's 2008 self-titled debut, to last year's Diotoma
, they've been riding with Profound Lore rigorously and methodically, releasing a brand new album yearly. Profound Lore doesn't exactly come off as a particularly controlling label, though. In fact, if I were to guess, I'd say their DIY mentality most likely gave them much more freedom than most other metal-based record labels. Still . . . there's nothing more "free" than doing it completely on your own, and that's exactly what this Brooklyn-bred progressive black metal band has done with Years Past Matter
, and I would venture to say that they've rarely sounded more in tune with each other.
The first track, "IIIIIII," begins with droning vocals that could easily be mistaken for for the sound of wind before an ascending tone suddenly crashes in on itself and becomes a stream of machine-gun blast beats---courtesy Lev Weinstein's infinitely energetic drumming---and a searing rip of tremolo picking from vocalist/guitarist Mick Barr and guitarist Colin Marston. As if locked in a duel, Barr and Marston continually battle each other on track after track with impossibly fast picking, like they're testing each other's limits before the drums and bass conjoin them again.
Sometimes, Krallice's riffs become repetitive---never to the point where it bothers me personally, but their invasive wall of sound is like a rupturous space shuttle launch. A spectacle in and of itself, the bombardment of noise is simply towering and often overwhelming. Luckily, these guys know how to space themselves out once in a while, such as on the end of "IIIIIIIII" where a quiet droning outro calls upon wind instruments and a chillingly calm effect. It's as if the molten aggression of the more traditional metal bits are soothed by a patient understanding that sometimes you've got to turn the volume down just a little. And not only that, it leads into "IIIIIIIIII" with a more space-y intro where the guitars echo and reverb on top of each other for an effect that is, again, more calming than I expected it to be, even as it barrell rolls into another heavy metal region, toying with certain doom elements.
The dual vocals of Barr and bassist/vocalist Nick McMaster is one aspect of Krallice that was sometimes a little off-putting to me. Barr's high-pitched and painful screams are literally eked out of him, while McMaster's low-end bellow seems to burst forth naturally. Again---more than ever---even this element feels so in tune as the vocals interplay with each other's vastly opposing spectrums. Similarly, Barr and Marston's guitar feud carries on right through to the end of the last song, "IIIIIIIIIIII," where their call-and-response melodies rip and crush at the same time. The song actually begins with the metal equivalent of a breakbeat as it's jarring stop-go rhythm eventually transfers into a more rapid blast beat.
Krallice hasn't been around that long, yet they've already released four albums. Part of me wonders if they've already drained their potential and whether or not they should have considered putting a dam up on the creative reservoir just for a while to give fans a more thoughtful pacing between releases. But at the same time, that's exactly what makes Years Past Matter
such an exciting album of theirs. Seeing that "self-released" modifier is so rewarding, because it's as if they're saying to us: All right, let's see what we can really do
. I wouldn't go so far as to say that this is world's beyond some of their past material---so if you weren't a fan to begin with, I don't really see this one winning you over---but it's at least just as good and even more exciting to hear them sound so free within their full range of composition. From the dark and mesmerizing cover art, to the swift, feedback-laden ending that leaves their music rining in my ears long after, I think Krallice doing Krallice is what ultimately wins over when it's all said and done.