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Review: Krallice Return to Earth on Careening ‘Ygg Huur’

SPIN Rating: 8 of 10
Release Date: August 06, 2015
Label: Gilead Media

After a half-decade dwelling in thunderclouds, Krallice seem to have finally descended back to the ground. Regal air and swooning instrumentals have been the default mode of composition for any would-be black metal experimenters since the turn of 2010s. And along with the oft-maligned triumvirate of American aesthetes (Deafheaven, Liturgy, and Wolves in the Throne Room), this quartet of Brooklynites has indulged in their fair share of instrumental excess over the course of their otherwise workmanlike discography. On their best effort to date, 2012’s Years Past Matter, they performed the same sort of skyscraping as their better-known peers, building torrential sloughs of tremolo-picked guitars and moaned vocals into freestanding Babel-like structures of immense import.

Now Krallice are three years removed from that record, their most ostentatious to date, and they’re finally back with their fifth full-length Ygg Huur. And despite the fact that this is their longest gap between records, it’s their most conscious rejection of grandiosity yet, a turn toward nervous and gnarled instrumentals that bear little resemblance to what’s come before. Even from the first seconds of opening track “Idols,” it’s clear that this is a revamped version of Krallice. In place of their straightforwardly ascendant drive, guitarists Colin Marston and Mick Barr meander and double back like inebriated bees before straightening up their act into origami-like complexity and precision.

Barr’s spent some of his last few years performing cobwebbed solo improv work, and those mind-expanding efforts are well represented here — you’d be hard pressed to find a riff like the tessellating forms on “Over Spirit” on a record by any of their higher-profile contemporaries. Notes skip and jumprope in manners both obtuse and idiosyncratic, resulting in instrumentals that teeter as if there’s only one foot planted on the ground at a given time.

Behind the two arachnoid guitarists is a rhythm section whose queasy clatter and jerky locomotion even more obviously ballast the formerly soaring instrumentals. There are few blast beats in sight, instead rhythm parts like those that govern “Bitter Meditation” lumber and roil with the swell of a stampede — picking up speed and stumbling at random, but still maintaining the overall sense of careening action. Drummer Lev Weinstein offers twitchy snare drum punishment to rival any self-respecting black metal drummer, but like the overall thrust of these songs, he favors an attack a little stranger — pushing these songs into weirdo tempos and time signatures that are as indicative of bespectacled strains of math-rock as they are the corpse-painted forebears of the genre with which he’s most commonly associated.

It’s the band’s most outwardly tortured material since their 2008 debut, when their take on black metal structures was still relatively straightforward. They’re all the way through the looking glass on this one, presenting a knobbly vision of the genre that stems and branches out like a particularly warped weeping willow, but given the opiated grandeur of what came between this is a particularly oxygenated version of their blown-out screams and squelches. It’s as if, after years of building compositions grand enough to explore stratospheres and spirit realms, they remembered that hell was right here on Earth.