The past decade or so must feel like a renaissance to avant metal fans, with the ‘genre’ developing as fast as composition did in the 1950s. It is as if there is an arms race within the metal idiom to expand itself, integrating ideas of disparate backgrounds, making avant metal sound not very much like metal. At the forefront of this trend are the Chicago-based Locrian, who, almost without fail, have managed to successfully synthesize sounds ranging from noise to doom, from black metal to drone.
The Crystal World, the group’s third studio album and second of this year, finds the charter duo of André Foisy and Terence Hannum joined by Steven Hess (electronics and percussion). As with their prior output, there is an unrelentingly challenging nature spread out across these two discs, again splicing concepts from harsh genres, yet still demonstrating a dedication to melody and form. “Obsidian Facades” mixes black metal wails from hell with crumpled feedback, until it interludes into a clean, tonal guitar and drum piece. “At Night’s End” builds at a tortoise-like pace, slowly interjecting pedal-laden guitars and doom chants.
“Extinction,” which comprises the entirety of the second disc, seems to congeal together nearly every style and motif that Locrian have employed throughout their recorded history. It dances between pulsating drones and a wintery blast that might even terrify Paysage d’Hiver. Every second of its almost hour-long duration is engrossing, both in moments of restraint and caterwauling necromancy. All the while, Locrian maintain an unceasing sense of despair so affecting that even if the listener were to pause the album, depression would still loom.
This darkness, in fact, pervades the entire album. A sense of loneliness lurches in every track, even in the post-rock refrains from brutality. Ill-will grows, latching further onto the album and listener as each second ticks away, until finally, on the aforementioned “Extinction,” any and all hope or positive feeling is expunged. The album title, The Crystal World, is a reference to J.G. Ballard’s novel of the same name, in which an African forest is slowly crystallizing, wherein life wanes and coldness waxes. I’d say Locrian did a fine job transcribing that novel to music.