Sometimes a band shifts out from under you when your back is turned. The last time I really paid attention to Krallice – on their 2009 second album Dimensional Bleedthrough (Profound Lore) – they played a style of modern, distinctly un-necro Black Metal characterised by vast, otherworldly ambience and broken, alien riffing; fiercely technical, but also rooted firmly in atmospherics and the desire to transport the listener somewhere different.
Six years later, they’ve somehow managed to shift sideways while remaining broadly in the same place. The basic components of their sound – yelped vocals, broken dissonant riffs and rapid-fire picking – are still recognisable, but used to achieve a very different effect. The transcendent, other-worldly qualities of their first two albums has been replaced by something much more mundane and earthly. Their musical links to Black Metal (always somewhat controversial among the panda-faced orthodox) are now almost completely absent, their song-writing now rooted more firmly in Noisecore, or whatever it calls itself these days. Fellow New Yorkers Pyrrhon come to mind on several occasions, but the comparison is not a favourable one – where Pyrrhon rage and howl and storm against the urban madness of modern culture, Krallice don’t seem to conjure any emotional response beyond Look How Many Different Notes I Can Play.
At its best Ygg Hurr (Independent) can coalesce into something that combines both technical complexity and savage groove, but more often than not it collapses into a swarm of dissonant riffing with very little behind it. The vocals, perfectly effective when Krallice were searching the stars for alien worlds, also seem ill-suited to the bands more compact, technical style. Where someone like Doug Moore takes his voice on a trip every bit as convoluted and challenging as the music, Krallice’s vocals just screech along regardless of what’s happening around them.
Though in every meaningful way a hugely impressive achievement, Ygg Hurr feels like a triumph of technicality over character, a band who left behind who they used to be and haven’t yet decided who they’re going to be next. The playing is, of course, absolutely beyond fault, and those seeking technicality and virtuosity for its own sake will definitely find something worth listening to, but anyone else will find it hard to shake the feeling of a wasted opportunity.