Music by VICE

Krallice Had a Really Good Year

As the world burned around us, the NYC experimental metal mainstays released the most challenging, essential music of their career.

by Cody Davis
Dec 20 2017, 6:20pm

Photo courtesy of Krallice

2017 has been a whirlwind year for Krallice. The experimental black metal band released two new full-length albums in rather quick succession, Loüm in late October and Go Be Forgotten in the middle of November, which they introduced with only a couple of terse social media posts. By now, Krallice has no need for any additional hype. The band—bassist and vocalist Nick McMaster, drummer Lev Weinstein, bassist Colin Marston, and guitarist Mick Barr— have been heralded as leaders in the United States black metal scene ever since their self-titled debut made waves in 2007, and built a healthy following by approaching black metal’s raw, dynamic ancestry with unparalleled technical precision. This formula led to partnerships with tastemakers like Profound Lore Records and Gilead Media, and can be seen in the way members approach their many, many side projects, as well.

McMaster and Weinstein both play in Geryon, a drum-and-bass death metal band which is the lone guttural outlier in Weinstein’s rotating stable of black metal projects (which currently include Anicon, Woe, and Pyrolatrous.) Marston plays with tech-death legends Gorguts and technical wizards Behold the Arctopus, as well as in instrumental metal bands Dysrhythmia and Indricothere. Barr plays in avant-garde rock duo Orthrelm as well as solo projects like Octis and Ocrilim. In diversifying their creativity and exploring other musical avenues, Krallice’s members have created something truly captivating and unique.

Part of that appeal lies in their obvious chemistry; three of the four members of the band met in college, and they’ve all been close friends for years. “Lev [Weinstein] and I were out in Chicago in school together, and the big reason I play music is because I knew him,” McMaster says of their pre-Krallice musical endeavors. “When I decided I wanted to play music, I knew Lev was good. He plays drums to a point where people would still like the band even if I suck—he’s that good of a drummer.” McMaster met Marston while in college as well. Marston, part of Krallice’s dizzying guitar duo, and his Behold the Arctopus bandmate, Mike Lerner, were roommates at NYU. McMaster and Lerner had a mutual friend who told Nick to come listen to Marston play guitar.

“I remember our mutual friend saying, ‘Dude! You’ve got to come down and hear Mike’s roommate play this music,” McMaster recalls. “It sounds like 10 Necrophagists!’ I went down to Colin’s dorm room to hear it. We sat there like it was a recital. He played his early Behold the Arctopus stuff against drum programming stuff on his computer.”

He and Weinstein would begin to work with Marston remotely as the duo made more music. “Lev and I had Astomatous and other bands in college that Colin knew about,” McMaster says. “We did a recording and sent drums tracks to Sanford Parker [producer, engineer] then I would add guitars and we shipped it to Colin to mix it.”

This early work together would ultimately pave the way for Krallice. Weinstein joined as basically a session drummer for the self-titled debut, and McMaster formally joined before work commenced on 2009’s Dimensional Bleedthrough. Their musical relationship helped Krallice’s music grow into a dense display of layered riffing and lightning-quick drumwork. That studied cohesion has allowed them to expand their instrumentation and experiment with new ideas—like bringing in Dave Edwardson, bassist, keyboardist, and vocalist of Neurosis in for Krallice’s seventh full-length record, Loüm.

“We are all really big fans of early Neurosis—well, obviously, all of Neurosis—but especially albums where Dave does vocals,” he explains. “Colin saw them live at an event where both Gorguts and Neurosis were playing. He noticed that Dave still does the vocals live and he still sounds exactly the same. Colin talked to Dave and found out he was into Krallice.” Marston and Edwardson soon hatched a plan to bring him into the studio for a record.

“We made the album instrumentally, then Dave came and did all of his work with vocals… He was so prepared when he showed up and such specific ideas for delivery and everything. It’s obvious he really listened to the tracks,” McMaster says. “Afterwards, he went to this place in San Francisco that was an old synth museum where you could rent it by the hour and record there. Every part is practically on a different piece of gear. He sent it back to us with all of these mini pieces and the time codes for where to put them.”

Edwardson’s contributions fit seamlessly into Krallice’s efforts. His punk background and politically charged lyrics brought a different edge to Krallice’s oddball black metal, but his intensity and commitment to the band’s sound matched that of McMaster and his bandmates. Even within such a tightly-knit group, Edwardson seemed to fit in like the fifth member of the band.

Loüm was not the only record Krallice to surface this year; album number eight, Go Be Forgotten, arrived on November 20. While Loüm follows in the punchier death metal and even d-beat elements of last year’s brief, yet thunderous, Prelapsarian; Go Be Forgotten recalls the band’s earlier tones—and there’s a good reason why.

“A lot of those songs, they weren’t full songs, but a lot of that material was from the end of that time,” McMaster says when asked about the similarities between their eighth album and their foundational works. “We had this stuff that was a different direction from those records, and the material was still good, so it seemed like a waste to throw it away. We put our energy into developing it, knowing what the differences in sound were.”

The revitalization of this source material intersects with a point in time where Krallice is arguably at its most experimental. In parts, the resultant Go Be Forgotten calls to mind Second Wave classics like Emperor’s classic Into the Nightshade Eclipse, using keyboards alongside feverish black metal to create an overwhelming atmosphere. Overall, Go Be Forgotten is expansive and, at times, contemplative. It places heavy emphasis on the once-subtle ambiance of the band’s early albums by turning up the volume on the keyboards and their jokingly named “magic guitar,” which McMaster describes as “an overdub of the guitar parts—usually a clean tone with a lot of reverb.”

That overdub begins to sound a lot like synths, especially when it’s layered with the same parts on a heavier guitar—giving a gleaming touch to songs such as the title track to Go Be Forgotten and “Etemenanki” on Loüm.“If you listen to ‘Wretched Wisdom’—the very first Krallice song—there are keyboards in that as well,” McMaster explains. “We’ve actually had keyboards on almost every album except, maybe, Ygg Huur and possibly Dimensional Bleedthrough. That was something that was in the second wave of black metal and it has always been something that was open to us."

Krallice’s dedication to their craft has already built them a legacy in the annals of black metal, but it’s their willingness to push themselves well beyond their comfort zone that gives the quartet such a strong prognosis for the future. “We can still make stuff that’s interesting enough that we want to keep doing it,” McMaster says.

The band has never been one to shy away from experimentation or skewing normalcy. As the door closes on their first decade, all that can safely be said is the next ten years are in the hands of four innovative musicians and long-time friends. The rest of us are just along for the ride.

Cody Davis is sharing wretched wisdom on Twitter.