Krallice - Hyperion
Krallice never sat well with me. Their approach to black metal, which is to play it like tech-death at the speed of grind, is impossible to stay interested in for an entire album—after a point, no half-assed attempt at texture or skronked-out melody salvages what amounts to a barrage of notes at lightspeed and the wrong sort of headache. Krallice gave us three albums of this before deciding to amp up the textures for Years Past Matter, which had a much, much higher percentage of listenable cuts than anything the band had previously given us.
Around the time of Matter’s release, someone must have turned the band onto black metal luminaries Deathspell Omega and their EP Drought, dropped the same year. Deathspell Omega have been breaking up the foundations of black metal and bolting them back together in bolder and increasingly more sinister ways since roughly 2004. Drought is a further refinement of 2011’s near-perfect Paracletus, and together represent a blueprint for just what black metal can be going forward: menacing, off-kilter, and exciting.
Krallice must have studied this blueprint for a long time. It’s clear that they borrowed a number of cues from the Deathspell Omega handbook for last year’s vastly improved Ygg Hurr. The band was able to elaborate on the textures of Years Past Matter, seeming to realize a couple of important things in the process: first, that there are tempos under “breakneck,” and second, that random time signatures do not account for variety. While Ygg Hurr suffers from a little too much Deathspell worship, it’s easy to admire the strides Krallice took with that album to grow. In its own way, Ygg Hurr is Krallice’s Paracletus: a streamlined version of their ambitious but bloated sound, and a sign of greater things to come.
Hyperion is analogous to Drought in this way, too—the difference is that Krallice isn’t burdened by the theological and conceptual underpinnings of Deathspell Omega’s body of work. So where Drought functions as a sort of epilogue, capping off the absolutely seismic trilogy of Si Monvmentvm Reqvires..., Fas..., and Paracletus with an adrenaline shot, Hyperion moves in the other direction: this is Krallice paring their typical six or seven-song marathons down to just three tracks and working with a third of the run-time, announcing a more thoughtful and deliberate Krallice for the future.
Not to say that Krallice have forgotten how to rip heads off, because there’s plenty of that going on. They’ve just learned how to save those moments and wrap them up in sweeping builds and ethereal textures for which the bass, as much as the guitarwork, is responsible. After over a decade of neglect, metal seems to be rediscovering the power and the importance of the bass guitar, and I don’t think I could be happier. It guides opener Hyperion through its restless, sidewinding progression and rattles through swirling closer "Assuming Memory," sometimes rearing up to the take the lead. The highlight for me is middle track "The Guilt of Time," whose first half crescendos like something out of the Cascadian scene (think Wolves in the Throne Room or Falls of Rauros, but in something like a sixteenth of the time those bands usually take) before the song collapses around a jarring series of drumrolls, and then launches into a dramatic, ascending tremolo riff. It’s easily one of the most accomplished and entertaining pieces of music Krallice has put out, because for the first time, every twist sounds planned to elicit something other than “wow, that was fast!”
Krallice is clearly in control, but the brevity of the EP works for and against it. Three songs and twenty-four minutes (give or take) is more than enough time to test these new waters, but I wonder if one more track would have been so bad. The vocals have remained largely unchanged since Krallice’s last few outings, and while they’re certainly not intended to be the focus of this brand of metal, I do wish there was a little more experimentation with texture in that department like there has been in virtually every other aspects. As it stands, Krallice’s vocals are generic, distant screeches, punctuated by the occasional growl that doesn’t do nearly as much to shake up or even highlight what’s happening instrumentally. Again, while this isn’t really the purpose of vocals in black metal, it’s a shame that Krallice doesn’t seize this opportunity to rewrite their own rulebook a little further when they’ve already edited so much of it.
It’s tough to say where Krallice will go with Hyperion’s promise, and we can’t even look to Deathspell Omega for a parallel—they’ve been lying low since Drought, giving the trilogy time to sink in and start rippling outwards in the scene. We’ve already seen it taking effect in acts as far-flung as Denmark’s Dodecahedron and Iceland’s Misthyrming, and we’re seeing it now in the U.S.’s Krallice, who have arguably advanced the “Deathspell” sound with touches of Cascadian black metal and their own hyper-technical tendencies. All I can really say is that, having listened to Hyperion several times over since starting this review, I think I may finally be able to sit through the entirety of the next full-length Krallice gives us.