Often I ask what constitutes metal, but when I do that, I’m not trying to rein in the parameters. I’m trying to expand the borders and say that I don’t consider the genre limiting at all. It should be anything an artist wants it to be, as long as some of the tenets of metal are kept in place.
But I’d like to think we’re smart enough to know our limits. A pop song with one guitar line can’t be deemed metal, but a charring, aggressive metal song with a hook and some shine certainly still can be considered part of the genre. Also, we don’t have to have riff into riff into chorus back into riff to be metal, nor do we need outright violence to adhere to the genre’s boundaries. I’ve always thought of metal as having an open mind artistically, and if something is going to piss off the masses, what’s more metal than that?
That brings us to “Return to Annihilation,” the new effort from Locrian and their first exclusively for Relapse. It sure doesn’t sound like Nordic Satanic majesty or power triumph, but damn it, if it isn’t metal through and through philosophically. The band never will be mistaken as the most brutal, violent in the history of metal, but they have enough crunch, savagery, and fury to keep their roots firmly in the ground, but they also dream beyond borders and imagine things that could be possible if artists took metallic seeds and let them grow wherever. This type of music is full of possibilities, and Locrian is one of the bands not afraid to see how far they can take things. This new record blasts through the doors and gives metal a whole new identity.
The band has been at it for quite some time now, and it’s comprised of Andre Foisy, Terence Hunnum, and Steven Hess. For a long time, they recorded for the awesome Land of Decay, as well as other labels, and their addition to Relapse’s roster is a boost for both parties. It’s a great signing for a label that’s been extending its borders in recent years, and Locrian deserves the added exposure, distribution, and attention they’ll get. This is a fantastic, mesmerizing band that’s long been thought provoking and stimulating but now have a chance to reach more people.
The first half of the album is what’s going to feel most foreign to long-time Locrian listeners. The opening four tracks are some of the most atmospheric, exploratory material in the band’s catalog, and you might be wondering what’s going on at first. But hang on. This is Locrian after all, and you never can put definite expectations on their records. So we open into “Eternal Return,” a song with a rather poppy keyboard melody line and shimmering lights, but also some harsh shrieks and surging guitars. That leads to “A Visitation From the Wrath of Heaven,” a song that floats on long waves of repetition, accompanying beats that seem intent to hypnotize, and doomy, perversely danceable sections. But, of course, when you’re being lulled into a trance, the song explodes all of a sudden, and you’re swimming in chaos. On “Two Moons,” we’re back to a sense of serenity, and some of this track reminds me of Mount Eerie in spots. “Exiting the Hall of Vapor and Light” has warped, cool melodies and a drone ambiance that hangs above the room like a swarm of insects. Guitars are picked at and the ground swells beneath you, making a nice exit out of the first half and into the fire.
The second half is where the ugliness and fury return, with the title track leading the way with its droning singing, buried shrieks, segments of catchy progressive doom meandering, and its foreboding sense that something’s about to go very wrong. The surging guitar lines built into the song might make you move at first, but then the savage vocals come in and cut you off before you have a chance to settle into a groove. “Panorama of Mirrors” is outright scary at times, with its hellish noises, buzzing pockets of guitars that aim to cut you at the waist, and a general sense of unease. Gazey guitar fire kicks up, groove blasts in with the bristling drums, and shrieks and cries are sent off to the hopeless ends of hell, seeking a voice of comfort that never quite arrives. It’s black and ugly, and anyone who bitches Locrian have lost their metallic edge apparently missed this miserable, deranged son of a bitch. The 15:29-minute closer “Obsolete Elegies” brings things back around from a volume standpoint but never relents in its intensity. Its opening strain of strummed guitars slips into poison vapors of synth and make for a creepy, cold, isolated psychological adventure. It sounds like heyday Pink Floyd at times, and that panic and anxiety those historic greats can cause to well up in your chest, Locrian prove just as capable of making you shiver and scream for silence. This is a powerful closing statement and also leaves a hint of something perhaps they’ll explore a little more in the future. These guys could make one mindfuck of a psychedelic record, if this cut is any indication of their powers.
Locrian get more ambitious, rewarding, and surprising with each new release (and they have plenty of them), and this record is a perfect one to introduce them to a wider audience Relapse can provide. Their records are journeys through time and space, and you often have to be mentally prepared for what they have in store. “Return to Annihilation” is a triumph for an already accomplished band that doesn’t care to adhere to genre restraints, creative boundaries, or even cosmic distance. They’re traveling full speed ahead while everyone else tries to catch up.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/LocrianOfficial
To buy the album, go here: http://www.relapse.com/store.html
For more on the label, go here: http://www.relapse.com/