New Jersey isn’t a place you’d imagine was capable of spawning a Black Metal act that could appease the kvlt masses, all 666 of them. Indeed, the Garden State had best prepare for the oncoming blizzard. Being a band for nearly 20 years, Krieg has been among the forerunners of the USBM movement alongside Judas Iscariot, Weakling, and Leviathan, a distinction well deserved if it culminates in the release at hand, entitled Transient. The unassuming cover art features naught but a ruined building in black & white; no logo, no title, just an unassuming portrait of decay to accompany the equally grim music.
Far from being merely an imitation of the Norse masters, one can still pick out glimmers of old Immortal, and DarkThrone, as well as that distinctively American (fuck yeah) sound that pays homage to Crust Punk. Speaking of that, there’s a killer cover of Amebix’s ‘Winter’, with faithfully replicated vocals, cleverly placed in the middle of the album as opposed to being tacked on at the end. Not many bands do this, but I feel as though Transient on its own could have gotten away with that, seeing as the material is strong enough to hold its own merit. The drumming’s cannonading assault is rhythmically sound, and even provides enough subtlety, particularly in the cymbalwork, to keep me tuned in throughout. The guitar work is simple, but does its job well enough that they don’t need flashy solos, complex intertwining harmonies, etc. Just endless snow. Even the bass is audible, and that extra layer of low end goes a long way in enhancing the already potent axes.
Overall, I found myself preferring the tracks with the catchiest melodies, as I’m a sucker for songwriting in my Black Metal. ‘Atlas With A Broken Arm’ has a particularly sorrowful, even catchy melody, and near the end puts in a rockin’ headbang section, complete with an atmospheric lead (or is it a synth?), finishing with a spectacularly anguished wail that departs from Lord Imperial’s standard delivery. ‘Ruin Our Lives’ opens slow, has a brief electronic interlude, and returns with renewed malice in the form of Satanic Warmaster-esque pummeling. Closing track ‘Gospel Hand’ is perhaps, alongside ‘Atlas’, one of the strongest tracks, due to its melody also being quite the earworm, insofar as Black Metal can have catchy riffs without being false. Take notes, aspiring Black Metallers, before strapping on those spiked gauntlets: You can make music.
Picturesque bleakness and a comforting sense of nihility pervade this release. No filler makes itself known here, even though the average song is around 4-5 minutes, the longest being ‘Home’, an ambient track featuring a seasonably bleak spoken word piece that drives er… home the essence and heart of the album. Enriched by electronics and a simple acoustic guitar riff, it’s a welcome shift musically, tonally cohesive enough to earn its place. In all, the album doesn’t reek of modernity, nor wallow in its vinyl closet, but offers quality at every turn. A highly recommended soundtrack for your impending death.