Locrian

The Crystal World

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The album title is another tip of the hat to rock & roll and literature of the fantastic -- in this case, J.G. Ballard's novel of the same name -- but The Crystal World finds Locrian concentrating less on mysterious high rises and body shock than atmospherics familiar from metal's continuing impact over the years. Not for nothing is the first song called "Triumph of Elimination," which features its first vocals in classic black metal hollow-howl style over a slow, rising burn of both feedback rumble and electronic tones, with only an occasional shimmering note for relief. "Obsidian Fa├žades" similarly brings the unearthly calls, and if the trope is familiar, the sound of the voice fading out into huge distances as the music slowly swells is still unnerving, with even the concluding piano sounding only like a salute to a lost soul. It's not simply that, though, as subsequent songs demonstrate more than a little love for the darker textures of prog rock, sometimes beautifully so. The title track, which contains a lovely, constantly ascending series of overdubbed guitar parts working in contrast with ominous bass growls and synth noise, feels like a slow-motion rocket takeoff. "At Night's End," in contrast, harkens back to an early-70s Pink Floyd zone with extra guitar rampages, all with chanting vocals and a barely audible, gentle strum of a melody underneath the looming aural clouds. Meanwhile, the first half of a song like "Pathogens" could almost be from a lost New Zealand tape release from 1988: all crumbling feedback, skronking guitar parts, and buried, half-heard percussion that only suddenly breaks through with a vengeance at the end of the performance.

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