Review: Locrian - The Crystal World (2010)


artist: Locrian
release: The Crys­tal World
format: 2CD, LP
year of release: 2010
label: Utech
dur­a­tion: 1:47:53

Locrian does not rest idly, and I for one am all the hap­pier for it. Not incred­ibly long after the pre­vi­ous album Ter­rit­or­ies comes another full-length, and a fur­ther step for this band. Andre Foisy and Ter­ence Han­num are  joined by Steven Hess on per­cus­sion and elec­tron­ics, final­ising the sound - at least for now - that was developed on albums like Drenched Lands and the pre­vi­ous one men­tioned above. If you hadn’t read my pre­vi­ous reviews yet: Locrian are of the most import­ant names to watch in the realm of gui­tar drones, impro­vised raw sound­scapes, and for lack of a bet­ter term, ‘post-metal’.

Although the theme of The Crys­tal World can once again be called apo­ca­lyptic or even dysto­pian, this time there is a clear lit­er­ary ref­er­ence behind it, and that is the novel of the same name by J.G. Bal­lard, pub­lished in 1966. In this novel, a doc­tor and researcher of lep­rosy travels deep into the African jungle in search of a past love interest, and to invest­ig­ate a strange nat­ural phe­nomenon. As it turns out, an unknown virus or patho­gen is caus­ing the gradual crys­tal­lisa­tion of everything in the jungle, and it is slowly spread­ing out­ward, encas­ing the world in a crys­tal­line stasis where time stops.

The novel and this album are both equally fas­cin­at­ing works, and luck­ily the links back­ward are rather loose, allow­ing one to enjoy each without intru­sion from the other. How­ever, keep­ing the them­atic back­ground of the novel in the back of your mind while listen­ing to this work cer­tainly doesn’t hurt the atmo­sphere cre­ated. I had already praised the inclu­sion of per­cus­sion in Ter­rit­or­ies, and they are equally func­tional here, lay­ing down subtle rolling fills and gentle rhythms, rather than the black metal explo­sions on the pre­vi­ous albums. In gen­eral, the flow of this album is also more gradual, mir­ror­ing the slow but steady crys­tal­lisa­tion in the novel. The tools of the trade are still the same: a lot of feed­back, dis­tant screams, subtle synths, and quite a few gui­tar melod­ies, both dis­tor­ted and clean. Of par­tic­u­lar beauty is the title track, which per­fectly cap­tures a feel­ing of fore­bod­ing in a gently loop­ing melody with asym­met­ric drums and high-pitched gui­tar wails. It strikes me also that des­pite the songs hav­ing a clear head and tail, the pro­gres­sion of the album is very smooth and coher­ent, per­haps also because of the subtle repe­ti­tion of musical motifs. The main part ends with “Elev­a­tions and Depths”, a slow metal intro latched onto an epic acous­tic end­ing of acous­tic gui­tar, accor­dion, and violin.

The CD release of the album comes with a 53-minute bonus, called “Extinc­tion”, which feels like purer drone-reworking of the main part of the album. The atmo­sphere is sim­ilar, but more vast and extens­ive. Com­pared to the per­fectly pro­por­tioned tracks of the first CD, but also longer drone­works of Locrian’s past, I feel it is per­haps a bit too drawn out in places. How­ever, it does make a con­cep­tu­ally nice fit as the post-apocalyptic stage of this album, and in its long dur­a­tion there are many parts worth dis­cov­er­ing for laid back listen­ing ses­sions.

As such, the third full length album by Locrian is another suc­cess for these men, and a highly recom­men­ded piece of exper­i­mental music. The 2CD edi­tion is out end of Novem­ber 2010 on Utech Records, with the LP (without “Extinc­tion”) com­ing some­where in 2011.

Reviewed by O.S.

Track­list:

1. Tri­umph of Elim­in­a­tion (5:48)
2. At Night’s End (7:20)
3. The Crys­tal World (5:52)
4. Patho­gens (11:06)
5. Obsidian Facades (7:48)
6. Elev­a­tions and Depths (10:47)

7. Extinc­tion (53:40)

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