Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Album Review: Locrian - Return To Annihilation

Return To Annihilation
Rating: Grrrr

It is interesting to see a lot of metal acts embracing influences of other genres. In the past couple of years, we have seen a host of bands looking towards shoegaze for inspiration. Sometimes there is a fine line between the two, with shoegaze leaning more towards dense, blissouts while metal seeks a more aggressive, bludgeoning approach. The two together create an interesting symbiosis with the beauty of shoegaze adding nice contrast and breathing room to the pummeling nature of metal. Chicago trio Locrian have moved away from their initial focus of droning black metal to something not quite softer, but more measured, allowing beauty to creep in through the intense sludge of guitars. Return To Annihilation lives up to its murky album cover, an abandoned shopping cart lost in the mists of fog bound parking lot, with 7 tracks of lonely shoegaze-metal (metalgaze?) with passages of intense beauty meshed with full on assaults on the senses. Locrian is all about the build here, with each track keeping you transfixed in its spell, as the suite of tracks washes over you, enveloping you in its cloudy haze.

Locrian even find time to go slightly pop on the opening track "Eternal Return" with its swooning synths, pounding drums, and droning guitars that wouldn't feel out of place on an early Smashing Pumpkins record, the only marker that this is not pop is Terrence Hannum's guttural howl that pierces through the mix.

It's a gorgeous start to the record that flows perfectly into the pulsing throb of keyboards and eerie guitar squalls of "A Visitation from the Wrath of Heaven," an intense 8 minute journey that works through intimate intertwined guitars that play among each other like twinkling bells but holds a creeping sense of unease in the background as the drums get more focus and guitars more strident. Which neatly segues into the prog fantasia that is "Two Moons" before hitting the album centerpiece and title track "Return to Annihilation," a pummeling adventure of tribal drums, chanted lyrics, and dense guitar play.

Which again falls back into the dark, ambient tides of "Exiting the Hall of Vapor and Light" which holds your rapt attention with its subtle spin of chiming guitars and muted drums as it flows into the apocalyptic squall of "Panorama of Mirrors."

Ultimately ending in the 15 minute plus closer "Obsolete Elegies" which moves from death folk to prog rock to orchestral ambient to full on raging death metal and doing it all seamlessly. It is a fitting ending to a monumental record and perfectly encapsulates the tone and themes of the record in one amazingly constructed suite.

For lovers of metal records and shoegaze, this is a treasure chest of riches. Return to Annihilation is a wonderfully produced and performed record that is one of the best metal records of the year. Along with contemporaries like Deafheaven, Locrian is pushing the envelope of what metal is and can do. By venturing into unexplored territory they stand out among their peers and make metal a much more interesting genre.

Rating Scale:

Chilfos: masterpiece; coolest thing I've heard in ages.

Woof Daddy: excellent; just a hair away from being a masterpiece.

Grrrr: very good; will definitely be considered for my top releases of the year.

Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It: good; definitely invites further listens and piques one's interest for more material.

Meh: not horrible, but certainly not great; could have either been polished, trimmed, or re-thought.

Jeez Lady: what the hell happened? Just plain bad. They should hang their heads in shame and be forced to listen to Lady Gaga ad nauseam as penance.

Tragicistani: so bad, armed villagers with pitchforks and torches should run the artist out of the country for inflicting this abomination on the human race.

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