One of underground metal’s most beloved and strange acts has returned, almost a year after the release of their last album, Prelapsarian. On that album, Krallice seemed to lean more towards death metal than they had in the past. In this sense, Loum feels very much like a natural extension of that sound, as the black metal elements have been stripped down even thinner in favour of some particularly nasty progressive death metal, and this time around they’re also joined by Dave Edwardson of Neurosis fame. But when a band changes up their sound fairly late in their career, it’s often a high risk, high reward situation. Oftentimes bands will go through a grotesque midlife crisis before finally settling into a sound that works for them.
But a band like Krallice needn’t be worried about that. The New York extreme metal mainstays are all seasoned veterans, and their sound has been moving ever closer to death metal for a while now. On Loum they simply make the final leap. Kicking the album off is “Etemenanki.” It wastes no time showing us what’s in store for the rest of the album. The word of the day is “dissonant,” boys and girls. Sinister sounding riffs, odd time signatures and creepy guitar squeals define the album’s first track. While Krallice are diving further than ever before down the rabbit hole of avant garde death metal, the music feels disarmingly familiar. It’s not hard to guess which bands influenced Krallice while writing this album. For example, guitarist Colin Marston’s other avant garde flavoured extreme metal act Gorguts. There are moments on Loum that feel like they could have been lifted straight out of some unreleased Gorguts EP. At certain points, it even feels as though Marston’s OTHER other avant garde flavoured extreme metal act Behold… the Arctopus bleeds into Loum, lending the album some of the playfulness that defines Behold’s sound.
That’s not to say that Loum isn’t heavy. Oh, it’s heavy. Loum is defined by a swampy mixture of dissonant riffs, jangly basslines and drum fills so complex it takes a crack team of mathematicians to understand them. Krallice scoff at the mere notion of “accessibility” on Loum. This is uncompromising, punishing death metal through and through. Though songs like the title track will offer brief moments of respite for listeners beginning to feel the onset of listening fatigue, these moments are short and rare, and by the time you’ve just managed to catch your breath, you’re resubmerged in cold waves of quarter notes and tritones.
Of course, as you should have guessed from the title, this ain’t JUST a Krallice release. Dave Edwardson ads his vocal prowess to the band’s already-dense soundscape, and his gruff barks and shouts feel right at home. He also contributes keyboards to Loum, as if the Gorguts-ian riffs weren’t already sinister enough. He adds another layer of eerie ambience to the proceedings, especially since his sickly melodies stand in stark contrast to the roiling, ever-shifting landscape of the riffs.
If you’re a fan of the direction Krallice has been taking for the past handful of albums, this might just be the release you’ve been waiting on. They go into full-on death metal mode, and they don’t look back, though they manage to retain that certain Krallice charm and identity. There are moments on Loum that are reminiscent of other acts, but the overall product screams “Krallice.” If you’ve been holding out for a return to blacker waters, I’m afraid you’re out of luck this time, but I’d still recommend you give Loum a shot, otherwise you’d be missing out on one of the year’s most entertaining offerings of mind-melting brutality.
You can find Loum at Krallice’s Bandcamp page.