It’s been written numerous times over the past several months, but more than at any other point in time it bears repeating here: Colin Marston is absolutely owning 2020. His recording and production aesthetics lended mightily to some of the year’s best records (Pyrrhon, Imperial Triumphant, Defeated Sanity, and Afterbirth just to name a few), and his talents as a musician have graced fantastic releases from Behold… The Arctopus and Xazraug, among others. However bitterly disappointing 2020 has been for humanity, fans of experimental metal can take solace in the fact that one of its most creative and talented voices has never been more vibrantly alive. But some of Marston’s most acclaimed and easily recognizable work has always come from his involvement with Krallice. 2017’s Loum and Go Be Forgotten ended up as a couple of the band’s finest releases, with the latter ending up on more than a few year-end lists. Their latest offering, Mass Cathexis, shows the band at their collective best, and is a Krallice album worthy of the name.
Discussing this band just in the prism of one of its principal architects, however, is wildly unfair. Co-founder and guitarist Mick Barr, drummer Lev Weinstein, and bassist/vocalist Nicholas McMaster make Krallice what it is: A wildly inventive, polarizing black metal band that has an immediately recognizable and highly distinct sound that panders to no one. Throw in vocals from Dave Edwardson (who collaborated with the band on Loum) and you have yourself a line-up for the ages. On their eighth full-length offering, all of the hallmarks that have made the band the special entity that it has become in the avant and black metal worlds are present in spades. The compositions are winding and intricate, feeling almost free form without ever coming across as random. It’s a hard balance to strike, and Krallice find it once again here with verve to spare.
Opener “Feed On the Blood of Rats” kicks the proceedings off in energetic, aggressive fashion. It’s a veritable riff fest that gives Marston and Barr plenty of room to operate, and they deliver in spades. The intricate riff building throughout juxtaposes itself beautifully with Weinstein’s always pristine drum work, and doesn’t create such a racket as to drown McMaster’s superb bass work. It’s a testament to Marston’s preternatural skill as a producer and mixer that such an ever-winding and intricate track could sound this clear and diverse. But the man pulls it off, as Mass Cathexis stands tall as another feat of production wizardry.
On the whole, the tracks that make up Mass Cathexis herald back to the sounds the band conjured in Prelapsarian combined with the more aggressive nature of Loum. This focus on songwriting that melds the band’s complexity with a more straightforward and brutal sonic edge make for an album that, while obviously deeply complex and in many ways fairly experimental, never feels too isolating or uninviting. It’s hard to deny the effectiveness of the riffs in “The Wheel” as conduits for more than a few head-banging sessions. But for every aggressive banger there’s a Liturgy-level moments of transcendence like those found in “Aspharence” and “The Form”, which take the band’s most ethereal elements to new heights. It’s a mix of just about everything Krallice excels in, with each track feeling just as necessary as the last. The album’s final two songs provide a fitting cap to the madness that preceded it, offering up aggressive and (particularly in the case of closer “All or Nothing”) atmospheric compositions that cement the record as one of the band’s most accomplished yet.
Bands that contain as much raw talent as Krallice always run with high expectations, which makes it all the more remarkable that they continue to both meet and exceed our loftiest hopes. Mass Cathexis is a work of experimental black metal art that only Krallice could make, and will go down in the band’s colorful history as one of the most effective and thoroughly enjoyable releases in their discography. Every aspect of this record, from its production and instrumentation to its songwriting choices and experimental leanings, bleeds quality. If you’ve enjoyed Krallice in the past, there’s nothing here to dissuade you from diving headlong back into the strange and unique world the band have created. If it’s your first foray into Krallice’s discography, welcome. We’ve been expecting you. A fantastic release from one of black metal’s very finest collectives.
Mass Cathexis is available now for purchase and streaming on Bandcamp.