08 Aug 2022 - Dan D.
Ambient, Electronic, Death Metal | Profound Lore Records | Release date: 12 Aug 2022 | Favorite song: Incomplete Map of Voids
7 years. 7 long years. That’s been the time since LOCRIAN’s Infinite Dissolution. The world is now a very different place than it was in 2015. Our planet is a more fractured and dangerous place than it was. The rise of egotistical bigots has made fascists feel they can now scurry out of their dank, insipid hovels. We are faced with the real threat of nuclear annihilation at the hands of ‘leaders’ not stable or of sound mind enough to have access to such power. An unprecedented, and seemingly inevitable, global environmental crisis casts a grim spectral shadow over Earth. How long humanity has left in its current guise is anyone’s guess, but one thing is for certain, when I do go, I want the audio accompanying my demise to be LOCRIAN.
For those unaware, LOCRIAN are a three-piece that formed in 2005 in Chicago, who create a heady mix of experimental metal, drawing elements from drone, doom, black metal, dark ambient and electronics, and New Catastrophism is their seventh album proper (they have released three outstanding collaboration albums and a number of EPs, all worth checking out). They also take their name after an ominous sounding musical mode which is notoriously difficult to write in. For a LOCRIAN-fan, seven years is a long time to wait for new music. Luckily for us we’ve been treated to two slabs of sonic satisfaction in the form of New Catastrophism and the accompanying EP Ghost Frontiers, which both see the band returning to their experimental long-form work. The delay in new music wasn’t intentional from the band, but as we all can contest to, life sometimes gets in the way. With members now geographically separated and residing in Baltimore, Chicago and Albany respectively, and the small matter of a pandemic putting pay to meeting up in person, demos were being traded online so LOCRIAN was still very much in motion. The fact that these demos did not come to anything and most of the new material was written when the band were finally able to get together, is by the by. It’s testament that a fertile and inventive creative process was still very much present during the gap between releases.
New Catastrophism clocks in at just over 35 minutes and comprises of four lengthy compositions. Despite their duration though there is a constant sense of movement and none of the tracks feel drawn out. Opening opus ”Mortichnia” begins with an unsettling drone and the track evolves introducing swathes of synthesizer pads, guitar feedback and exquisite electronics to create what to me sounds like an otherworldly coronach at an ethereal funeral procession. ”The Glare Is Everywhere And Nowhere Our Shadow”, which was the first single released from the album, is a harsher affair than it’s predecessor with the guitar drones and feedback being more forceful and upfront and introduces ritualistic drums and Terence’s instantly recognisable distant screams. This track is underpinned by a slow, wave-like electronic pulse which really assists with building momentum. ”Incomplete Map Of Voids” begins with LOCRIAN at their most serene. Clean plucked and strummed guitar weaves effortlessly with string-like synthesizers, and electronic artefacts create an alluring sense of rhythm. The introduction of a steady beat partway through the track, vocals and a glorious riff and chord accompaniment do nothing to dampen the majesty of this stunning track. It’s easily my favourite piece that the band have recorded since Return to Annihilation’s ”A Visitation From the Wrath of Heaven”. The final track ”Cenotaph To The Final Glacier” opens almost Dark Folk-like with a sombre acoustic chord progression before being joined by droning, fuzz-heavy electric guitars. Towards the end the guitars fade to be replaced by a distorted beat, crackling noise and a driving synth arpeggio. From start to finish New Catastrophism is perfectly nuanced. There is nothing present that does not enhance the overall sound. On occasions, artists and bands of LOCRIAN’s ilk can be guilty of not letting their tracks breathe by simply adding too may layers but LOCRIAN masterfully avoid this. J Robbins mixing on this album is perfect and with Brad Boatright mastering, well you know that dynamically it will be impeccable. Trevor Paglen’s artwork is inspired too and compliments the sounds within so well.
Accompanying EP Ghost Frontiers is almost as long as New Catastrophism at just under 31 minutes but has just two tracks. Both ”Witness The Collapse Of Geological Time” and ”The Chasm Of The Future” showcase LOCRIAN’s dark/drone ambient side and do so extremely well. Whilst the tracks on New Catastrophism convey a society and planet on its knees, those on Ghost Frontiers transport you to a land where nothing remains. Imagine deserted valleys with the wind howling down from the hills and dusty plains with gusts whistling through the wires attached to broken pylons. It’s the sound of hopelessness and no future, knowing that you only have yourself to blame for the state of things.
I can’t praise LOCRIAN’s work on New Catastrophism and Ghost Frontiers highly enough. The band continue to be inventive and evocative and have lost none of what made them so special in the seven years since they released new music. If the world does collapse and I am faced with my imminent demise, I shall swiftly seek out both releases and listen, forsaking any meaningless words from a priest, as my aural absolution.