When I heard that instrumental maniacs Colin Marston and Mick Barr were teaming up to record a black metal album, my first reaction, and I'm sure many others felt the same, was that it would be 70 minutes of wank that would make Orthrelm's OV seem like an exercise in good taste. I wasn't expecting a great album, and I certainly wasn't expecting them to make the black metal record of the year. Yet, that's what they've done, and produced something more exciting, more musical, and just downright better than either Orthrelm or Behold... The Arctopus (Barr and Marston's main projects respectively, for those not aware)
It all fits, y'see. Once you've heard Barr's blazingly fast tremelo riffing on opener Wretched Wisdom, it seems nothing less than baffling that he didn't think of doing this sooner. I was vaguely familiar with Orthrelm before, but it never occurred to me that his distinctive light-speed picking would be perfect in the realm of black metal. Colin Marston seems like a less obvious choice, yet he's the equal of Barr here, harmonizing and counterpointing him perfectly. Krallice play black metal built entirely around the kind of epic, melodic riffing that recalls a cleaner recorded Weakling. For what it's worth, this is practically Dead As Dreams part two, albeit without the odd, muddy sound and the deranged screaming. Speaking of vocals, there aren't a great deal to be found here, and when they do make an appearance they're pushed right to the back of the mix. Still, perhaps that's for the best, as Mick Barr is certainly not much of a singer, barking away fairly ineffectually. Still, who on earth would listen to a Orthrelm/Behold.. The Arctopus side-project for the vocals?
Despite not really doing anything wildly different with the black metal template (there's no avant-garde excursions or acoustic interludes here) Krallice succeeds as an album simply because it's so satisfying. It's all perfectly played (musicianship in black metal is a much underrated quality), and later on, on the likes of Timehusk, we get to see some of the frantic shredding you'd expect from the musicians featured here. It's all tastefully done mind, never sounding like an exercise in self-indulgence. The production is nothing less than spot-on, with every instrument being as clear as a bell in the mix. What's more, every instrument is doing something interesting at all times, with the bass in particular doing it's own thing rather than simply following the guitars. Despite it being a debut, despite the band having only formed last year, despite it coming from two musicians with no previous experience in the genre, and ones that I wasn't particularly fond of, Krallice have nailed it on this one. With their first attempt, Barr and Marston have seen off competition from far more experienced bands such as Leviathan and Lugubrum to craft the black metal album of the year. The fact that it's one of the biggest surprises in metal history is undeniable. Whether Krallice can keep the creative juices flowing enough to ascend to the pantheon of black metal greats remains to be seen. But right now, coming off the back of such a strong debut, the world really is Krallice's for the taking.