Tristan Shone’s one-man industrial doom project Author & Punisher has had a bit of a Cinderella story since they landed on our radar some time between 2012’s Ursus Americanus and 2013’s Women & Children. Known for building his own arsenal of midi instruments and recreating his sound live on his own with his hands and feet triggering drum samples and droning synths as he screams into a hand-made microphone array, he’s gone from playing small rooms to having a Phil Anselmo-produced album and supporting Tool in arenas across North America. Shone has stayed on the grind over the years, constantly evolving his sound and instrumentation with each passing record. His previous outing in 2018’s Beastland was a highlight from the year and greatly expanded his sonic palette as a dynamic exercise in doom, industrial rock, and drone.
In the four years since Beastland, Shone continued his growth and development of A&P to include a broader palette of colors. Shades of Godflesh, Nine Inch Nails, and Ministry have permeated Shone’s musical vocabulary over the years, and Krüller expands this to include more dynamic songwriting, expressive vocal performances, and an increased focus on melody. Not that A&P was ever lacking in hooks and melodies previously, but Shone makes great strides in his ability to strip back the thick wall of distorted sound to make room for a more intimate and longing atmosphere, and the droning synths are imbued with lush harmonious layers.
The singles “Drone Carrying Dread” and “Maiden Star” in particular take overt cues from goth metal and new wave, drawing early comparisons to Type O Negative and New Order. The tracks retain lumbering doom tempos and crushing industrial tones, but Shone takes ample opportunity to build up immense layers of ornate synths and arpeggiating chimes while delivering (relatively) cleanly sung vocal hooks. It’s a sound that works remarkably well within the Author & Punisher playbook, and hearing Shone elaborate upon these influences across an entire album in such a focused and cohesive way makes Krüller an easy standout in his discography.
From early on in Krüller, Author & Punisher makes use of what is a purported first instance of live guitar on record from Phil Sgrosso of As I Lay Dying of all people, a tradition which will continue during live performances with Ecstatic Vision‘s Douglas Sabolick. These guitar flourishes come and go throughout the record and have much to offer in expanding the possibilities of the Author & Punisher sound. Speaking of collaborators and live instrumentation, Shone was able to procure the Tool rhythm section for two different tracks on Krüller. Bassist Justin Chancellor lends his talents to “Centurion” and keeps his contribution subtle enough and well within the context of the track’s meditative and sinister cybernetics. Danny Carey contributes drums to the cinematic album highlight “Misery,” blending live drums with programmed samples which provides an interesting flourish for A&P with a more intricate percussive performance than Shone can capture on his rails MIDI controller alone.
To provide further clues on what makes up the anatomy of Author & Punisher’s sound, Shone delivers a longing and anxious cover of Portishead’s trip-hop classic “Glory Box,” stylized here as “Glorybox.” Shone also breaks new ground for himself on the delightfully indulgent track “Blacksmith,” which breaks into glitchy and chaotic jungle and IDM influences in its later moments that fans of Aphex Twin would surely appreciate.
Following Beastland, Krüller is yet another monumental step for Shone in refining the songwriting and broadening the possibilities of the Author & Punisher. It’s his most listenable project thus far, but no less avant garde or confident in its position resting along the cutting edge of contemporary industrial music. Krüller is often as crushing as any of Shone’s past work, but with added emotional complexity and versatility to potentially catapult the record to the top of his discography.
Krüller is out February 11th on Relapse Records. Pre-orders are available at this location.