I have never quite understood the backlash against Krallice. Their airy contemporaries are rightly accused of missing the point when it comes to circumventing the black metal genre’s essential darkness, but I don’t think Krallice have ever shied away from discomfort. Quite the opposite, in fact: the band’s exceptional degree of technical musicianship has opened new routes to stifling anxiety that would have remained closed to a more stylistically ‘pure’ outfit. Sharp, angular tech-riffing, like something out of one of Penderecki‘s worst nightmares, sounds all the more jarring when it’s dropped in the context of a genre that tends to favour pairing its longer song structures with minimalism and introspective atmosphere. With that said, I can definitely see Krallice as not being a band for everyone, particularly those who have struggled with the band members’ other projects—namely Orthrelm and Behold the Arctopus.
Krallice has always struck me as a progressive metal band first and foremost—one that decided to don the blackened veil and roughly adhere to the customs of black metal. The penchant for technically challenging and cerebral music has remained a constant, but it hasn’t been until Ygg Huur that Krallice have begun to sound like they’re finally dropping the black metal pretension and showing themselves as they truly are. The layman may ask, ‘Is this still actually black metal?’ Regardless of the answer, it is clear that Ygg Huur marks a change of pace for a remarkably consistent band.
While Krallice’s career marked an audible shift towards increasingly sophisticated leaps in composition, I feel that Ygg Huur shows the band switching tracks in more ways than one. Krallice now sound more like Gorguts (for whom Krallice’s own Colin Marston has played a significant role these past few years) than the ‘angular black metal’ tag I had them pegged for. Roughly half as long as any of the meaty albums that came before it, Krallice has meant to condense the same number of ideas into a fraction of the time. This shift comes as a surprise, but if you listen for earlier moments where the band’s true passions lay, it is fairly easy to see this as a continuation of what they’ve been up to in the past.
Krallice has become more like the other bands these musicians are part of. Between Orthrelm, Behold the Arctopus, and the comparatively restrained Dysrhythmia, these guys are no strangers to jarring, calculated compositions. Don’t be fooled by the album’s length; not one minute of Ygg Huur‘s thirty-six are wasted on getting to the point. The songwriting starts and stops abruptly, and the music is fiendishly dense. Indeed, it’s sometimes difficult to know when one song ends and another begins. Ygg Huur is forged on a common frequency of anxiety-inducing technique and claustrophobic atmosphere. Normally I’d hold it against an album for being relatively ‘samey’ (especially when the style is unwelcoming by default), but with Ygg Huur, there’s a sense that Krallice have placed each and every note where it is with careful forethought.
Most technical music is impressive by default in a vaguely cerebral way, but the real quality is distinguished by how a listener’s appreciation will kindle or fester given repeated listening. In this, Ygg Huur represents a strong case of an album that had me sold from the first listen onwards and has held my appreciation at a relatively consistent level from there. It’s not that Ygg Huur doesn’t benefit from extra time or even patience, but Krallice’s tightness is instantly evident to a nigh-overwhelming degree. The band’s musicianship is easily the best thing on Ygg Huur, and even if their compositions lack the twists and turns to make them memorable unto themselves, there’s a palpable chemistry here you very seldom hear in a metal band. Marston and Mick Barr are a symmetrical hivemind of a guitar duo whose tangents always sound fine-tuned to echo one another. Lev Weinstein‘s drums are appropriately busy, and Nicholas McMaster‘s thick bass presence virtually begs for a slew of tech-death comparisons.
Krallice have shown their true colours here, I think. Any reservations someone may have had towards their place in black metal may be somewhat justified, if only for the realization now that Krallice sound so much more like themselves once they’ve done away with the most apparent traits of that sound. Ygg Huur‘s singular focus on cerebral technique is, in a way, more limited than the sprawling format of past albums, but it’s nonetheless impressive to hear a band highlighting their best strengths as such. I hesitate to name another band in recent memory that lends an equal sense of weight to their own technical manoeuvres. Krallice took a calculated risk with Ygg Huur; to my satisfaction as a fan of the band, it paid off.
02) Wastes of Ocean
03) Over Spirit
04) Tyranny of Thought
05) Bitter Meditation
Written by: Conor Fynes
Gilead Media (United States) / RELIC73 / 12″ LP
Avantgarde Music (Italy) / AV265 / CD
Independent (United States) / None / Digital
Progressive Black Metal / Avant-garde Black Metal