On a recent trip to London, a local friend whisked me off to the small but legendary Camden venue The Unicorn, where the lineup was presented to me as “vaguely metalcore.” My knee-jerk reaction to that term is cold indifference, but all skepticism was quickly assuaged as Calligram exploded onto the stage; everything was electric, thrilling, and utterly lacking in pretense. A multinational amalgam of members from Brazil, France, Italy, and the U.K., Calligram have honed a special brand of blackened atmospheric hardcore since forming in London in 2011. It took five years to finish and put out their debut, last year’s Demimonde, but they’ve wasted no time in following up with the forthcoming sophomore effort, Askesis.
Askesis holds the acerbic stamina of the band’s live presence from the jump, ripping off the bandage with opener “Della Mancanza.” The volatile first half of the album is filled with razor-edged vocals set atop constantly expanding and contracting blackened icy riffs, a throat-grabbing mise-en-scéne quietly tempered by an instrumental mid-album break, “Murderess.” The track is a bleakly beautiful reprieve from the assault of its counterparts, standing out as heartfelt and woeful amidst a storm of rage.
There’s nary a wasted breath before the closer “Lament” barrels in with its bottom-heavy groove and chugging guitars lending hefty closure to its discordant predecessors. The order and completion of Askesis as a whole work is thoughtful and executed with the mastery of a band on a high creative peak. In one album clocking in at a mere 30 minutes, Calligram have expanded the sound of their debut into something more unique and total without sacrificing a lick of cathartic hostility.
"For the ancient Stoics, the Askesis was a totality of rituals, behaviors, and rules that they used to follow and repeat obsessively like a mantra in order to set their mind and prepare it to cope with the nonsense and suffering of life," the band told Noisey in a statement. "Similarly, Askesis is Calligram's personal mantra to face the fact that nothing we do in this life, no matter what, has meaning or purpose. There's nothing above or beyond any of this. Nothing to stand for. Everything is just floating in an sea of emptiness."
"This record reflects our attitude towards life, people are too worried about changing the world and people's ideas; finding that perfect balance. Humans follow what other humans say; we're idiots. No one has a recipe for the perfect behavior, it's all very boring. We're just drinking beer and writing the best music we can whilst we can; before we head over to the void and other idiots will be trying to figure it all out."
Askesis will be released this Friday, November 24 on Basick Records. Stream the full album below.
Kelsey Zimmerman is a straight up murderess on Twitter.