The number of metal bands that have successfully, and radically, reinvented themselves fifteen years into their career can likely be counted on one hand. Expanding that statement to all genres probably makes it two hands. Krallice just did it and came out with a career-best. Somehow.
The New York foursome’s brand of dizzying avante-garde black metal has long inspired divisive reactions from black metal fans. The “kvlt” crowd has often derided their work as cosmic wankery for hipsters (not wrong), while the more enlightened have seen something profound in the sometimes confusing technical acrobatics and complex arrangements (also not wrong). With time, the band’s committed march forward won over many of the naysayers, so why rock the boat now? Because why the hell not.
Porous Resonance Abyss isn’t unrecognizable as a Krallice record. Beneath the newly synth-led soundscape there’s still those twisty black metal tremolos and blasts. But the focus has been shifted radically. Vocals are almost entirely absent, instead washes of glistening synths somewhere between John Carpenter, Event Horizon and Mass Effect are the voice. Virtually never do they step back in the compositions, instead demanding that the other instruments writhe around them like the tentacles of an alien leviathan. On first listen Mick Barr’s signature snarls and wails might be sorely missed, but the absolutist vision is unrelenting, and persuasive.
Often it feels as if the instruments are playing different roles than they usually occupy. The technicality is still there, but the guitars are frequently back-seated in the arrangements, while Lev Weinstein plays with an almost lead guitar-like purpose from behind the drum kit, delivering roll-happy, ever-shifting beats. Never have Krallice been so cosmically terrifying, these meditative space dirges somehow making their signature hectic black metal seem unserious by comparison. And yet, amongst the tightening vacuum of space, moments of gleaming beauty emerge. The alloy hull of a spaceship, or C-beams glittering in the dark. Sci-fi black metal has never been so good.
Porous Resonance Abyss is out now and can be ordered here.
Words: Brett Tharp