Many much-beloved metal albums, both very old and much newer, follow a straight and narrow path, charting a consistent stylistic course and staying in the lane, without much interest shown in the openings that lead off elsewhere into the thorny brambles and dark woods on either side. They work because the bands are so good at what they chose to do, and make their trails wander just enough to keep the eyes and ears of listeners alert.
On the other hand, some bands only seem to have eyes for the paths that twist and turn, the more tangled and unpredictable the better, and they relish the chance to dart off into side-openings whenever the opportunity presents itself. Some of those bands get lost, and lose listeners along the way, but others succeed in making their less-traveled paths more exciting than the straight and narrow.
The Loom of Time‘s new album Grand False Karass is certainly a vivid example of the latter, and an even more surprising one in light of the bamboozling (and dangerous) new adventures it offers by comparison to the band’s debut.
That debut album, NihilReich, is now six years behind us but still visible in the rearview mirror. As we wrote at the time, the music was a creative and compelling integration of diverse elements, with black metal and melodic death metal as perhaps the dominant forms, but with abundant progressive instrumental flourishes and detours into the hallowed halls of classic heavy metal and doom. It did a fine job jolting the skull and pumping electricity straight into the spine, but was also wonderfully melodic and regularly reached moments of arena-ready grandeur.
But the twists and turns and stylistic hybrids presented by the new album are even more startling, even more ferociously challenging to the listener’s comfort zones. And it’s a big record — more than 45 minutes long — so The Loom of Time have given themselves plenty of room to maneuver and abundant terrain to cross, all of it well off the beaten path.
The first two singles released from the album prove this, in spades. “The Lance of Longinas” is the album’s penultimate track and debuted with a trippy music video. It jolts and stomps with punishing force, it skitters and swirls in exhilarating frenzies, and it becomes fluid and sorrowful. The rhythmic grooves are potent, and the changes of energy and mood are kaleidoscopic in their variations. But perhaps the most startling features of the song are the wide-ranging vocals (including singing), which are head-spinning all by themselves.
The other single, “The Depths of Hell Itself“, is the track that opens the album, and it’s berserk right from the start, like a trip through a labyrinthian insane asylum, with twists and turns that take it into anguished hallucinations, up into outer reaches where stars might be seen, into dervish-like black-metal convulsions, and toward looming monuments of ominous heaviness. The vocals are again extravagantly varied, and so are the instrumental textures and abrupt alterations in sonic force.
Just from those two tracks it’s evident that trying to guess what the rest of the album holds in store is likely a fool’s errand, and it would equally be a fool’s errand for us to try to do the inventory for you track by track. But let’s at least pull out a few other examples to prove the main point.
The immediate follow-on to “The Depths of Hell Itself” seems like a spin through a diabolical carnival. “The Choices of an Automaton” intertwines glorious, prog-minded guitar work and brazen blaring chords, gut-slugging grooves and maniacal drum paroxysms, bizarre symphonic strings and manically swirling arpeggios, high-flown singing and deranged goblin snarls, and a lot more.
Quivering keyboards provide the opening to “The Luxury of Ignorance“, and later on, deep booming reverberations underlie the kind of guitar work that sounds like boiling madness, and ritual drum-beats provide the prelude to a guitar solo that’s pure sorcery. There’s also a flamenco-flavored guitar motif that provides the companion to more singing, plus gang-yelling.
And if you jump ahead to “The Crux of our Salvation“, you’ll be kept continually off-balance by the crazed tempo changes and riotous rhythmic variations, and get your head spun around by a woozy and weird saxophone solo (though maybe that’s a guitar that just sounds like one), as well as fretwork flurries that are as ecstatic as they are freakish. (There’s another sax-like solo in “The Cancer of Excess“, which is sublime.)
Jump further to the closing track “The Slightest of Deaths” and you’ll encounter spacey celestial synths and sorrowful singing that soars, accompanied by the distant boom of cannon-like percussion and ghostly whispers, followed by frightening instrumental and vocal chaos, like everything around you is coming apart and fear is running rampant.
Well, those were lots of words, but trust us, we’ve still only skimmed the surface. It’s tempting to point to bands like Arcturus, Ved Buens Ende, and Virus as reference points for the album, mainly because Grand False Karass reveals a similarly adventurous spirit, striking vocal variations, and tons of ingenious genre-blending. And it must be said that it’s just as fierce and scary as it is mind-boggling and exhilarating.
And with that, we leave you to experience the album for yourself, from mad start to frightening finish:
Grand False Karass will be released on September 30th by ATMF, in CD and digital editions.
THE LOOM OF TIME: