To lay my cards on the table: I slept 4 hours longer than usual last night and then spent more than an hour moving in a dense mental fog. I guess my body and/or mind needed all that extra sleep, gluttonously so. A couple of large Manhattans over dinner Saturday night might have had something to do with it.
So here I am, with noon rapidly approaching and some paying work still ahead of me, so I’ll have to make the number of selections in this column shorter than usual, despite the vast abundance of new blackened metal sitting in front of me.
Like many other people I have a compulsion to quickly check out anything new from Krallice, and not just because the members are so talented but also because they don’t do the same thing twice in a row. I didn’t have time to pounce upon their new album Porous Resonance Abyss on Friday when it was released. Although there might have been some kind of advance notice, it came as a surprise to me. Even today, I’ve only made one trip through it, and it’s not a quick trip.
If you haven’t found the album for yourself, be aware that it’s a four-part suite, with the final part consuming more than 21 minutes. Perhaps unexpectedly, the vast majority of “favorite track” nominations within the many comments at the album’s Bandcamp page are for that very long final track. The first three parts aren’t stingy either – they collectively go on for 22 minutes.
So what goes on? Many of those Bandcamp comments emphasize the expanded scope of synths, and some compare the album to a melding of Rush with black metal, though obviously those people are referring to just a part of Rush‘s discography (the more sci-fi-oriented and synth-laden part). Not being fully steeped in Rush, and with decades having passed since the era when I did listen to them, I can’t comment intelligently. Just passing it along for whatever it’s worth.
The album leads us on a merry chase, though don’t put too much literal interpretation on the word “merry” because what we’re chasing is the abyss. I mean only that we’re not being hurried along in anything resembling a straight line, though with Krallice that’s to be expected.
Synths do indeed play a very prominent role, –not symphonic synths but the kind of tones associated with “spaciness”, the kind that create sweeping visions of futuristic off-planet wonder and peril. The clarion-like ring and reverberation of the guitars and moments when the synths sound like the high end of a cathedral organ add to that atmosphere of exploring a vast unknown.
Even in the music’s most dreamlike and mesmerizing phases the relentless variability of the drumming and the bass maneuvers repeatedly seize attention. In conjunction with the synths when they descend into immense levels of heaviness, the bass and drums sound like gigantic detonations, and you will get exhilarating doses of black-metal blasting and galloping, but there’s also a lot of inventive frolicking to balance against the sweeping wonders and frights.
I don’t mean to diminish the importance of the guitar work, but you won’t come to this album for riffs. To these ears they’re much more often a harmonizing accent for the moods being established by the synths than the focus of the music. You will hear proggy digressions and bursts of mania from them, and i guess they’re part of the rapidly pulsating part of Part II that makes it such a feverishly tension-building and ominous experience.
There are growly and raging vocals in the album, but they’re so brief and sporadic that you might barely notice them. They do add a different element of hostility and danger to this dangerous realm we’re exploring (the dangers become especially evident in the relatively brief but wholly exhilarating Part III), but the extravagance of everything around them is so compelling that more vocals are not missed.
Why are so many people seemingly enamored of Part IIII? I’ll venture the guess that it’s because that track, a suite in itself, is such a spectacle. It brings together the chilling off-planet dreaminess and wonder of Part I (a lot of that), the tension and peril of Part II, and (at least briefly) the calamitous conflicts within Part III, and it again showcases the dazzling inventiveness of the drum-and-bass escapades, especially in the places where we’re cast adrift on astral seas.
In its final phase Part IIII also brings in bright electronic keys whose darting and swirling sensations might make one think that our chasing of the abyss has brought us to a place that’s glorious and welcoming. A merry chase after all… and maybe that’s a significant reason why it seems to be so well-loved.
I suppose there are still Krallice fans who long for the music of the band’s earlier days. Porous Resonance Abyss will still leave them longing. My advice is just to take this album as it comes, and enjoy it for the head-spinning, mind-expanding adventure that it is. With just one listen, I happily bought it, because I know I will again relish the chance to leave the world behind whenever I care to.
ODZ MANOUK (U.S.)
For my second and final choice for today’s abbreviated column I decided to take a blind chance on a band whose music I’d never heard. It’s orders of magnitude more vicious and violent than what you’ll encounter in the new Krallice album, but I think it turns out to be a very good companion to that album, even if it’s a companion that’s part wolverine.
Metal-Archives tells us that the band is a solo project based in Long Beach, California, and that its name is Armenian, and refers to a mythological character from Armenian folklore who was the son of a nameless king and queen, but was born as a serpent:
Rejecting any other food, he was fed virgin maidens and kept in a secluded chamber beneath the king’s castle. One day, a young woman named Arevhat was captured as a meal for Odz Manouk. When the king entered his monstrous son’s chamber, he found that Arevhat was still alive and that his son had turned into a beautiful young man. Odz Manouk and Arevhat then succeeded the king and queen as rulers of Armenia.
So far, thanks to links from my Serbian friend Miloš, I’ve listened to two songs from a forthcoming Odz Manouk album entitled Bosoragazan. One is “The Last Bastion of the Serpent’s Tongue” and the other is “Բոսորագազան“. Both of them are intricate and elaborate, and filled with captivating instrumental accents and diversions.
As suggested above, the ferocity is palpable. The songs include plentiful blast-beat strafing runs and ghastly snarls and screams that sound hideously unhinged, and both of them are almost relentlessly fast. But as also suggested, the fast-as-blazes fretwork doesn’t just discharge scorching firestorms, it’s filled with twists and turns. The bass indulges its own wildly careening impulses, and the drums even pick their places to veer rapidly from blasting to methodical hammering and quick acrobatic progressions.
It’s fair to say that the music is spectacularly wild. Whether it’s the wildness of a dervish spinning in the throes of a glorious possession or the wildness of beasts gone mad and prey fleeing in fear, well I think it’s open to either or both interpretations.
There are also moments in “The Last Bastion…” where the lead guitar seems to twist and turn, to moan and wail, in moods of confusion and misery. That song also includes eerie whistling tones that augment those feelings, as well as adding yet another accent to an already elaborate yet still head-hooking instrumental tapestry. That song expands into dark, progressive digressions that begin to seem psychotic, or at least psychedelic.
Similarly, “Բոսորագազան” begins as a full-bore assault of blasting beats and rapidly writhing guitar madness, an assault peppered with explosive detonations and attention-seizing bass-work. As for those interpretations suggested above, its sensations lean more toward the exultant whirl of a dervish than the ruinations of a savage beast. It gets the heart pounding and the head spinning like a top. Because it’s shorter than the other song, it’s less elaborate, but still a hell of a thrill.
Bosoragazan will be released by Blood Coloured Beast, but I don’t know when. The stunning artwork for “The Last Bastion of The Serpent’s Tongue” was made by Jeroen Van Valkenburg, and the very different but equally stunning art for “Բոսորագազան” is the work of Aron Briggs. What a treat it will be if every song on the album gets its own cover art, in quality comparable to these.