Under The Influence: Krallice Diotima
This is the final Haunting The Chapel. In case you missed my earlier tweet, I accepted a position at Pitchfork, where I’ll be returning as an Editor on Monday, 8/1. “Returning,” because I worked there as a Contributing Writer from 2003 to 2008, writing 200+ reviews and then launching the site’s metal column Show No Mercy in 2006. To answer what a number of folks have been asking: Yes, Show No Mercy will be back, made better with some things I learned while working on Haunting The Chapel.
Since starting Haunting The Chapel at Stereogum around Halloween 2009, I’ve enjoyed reading your comments, and feeling a sense of community. People have mentioned to me a few times that the comments on HTC always seem calmer and less angry than the comments on the rest of the site. I appreciate the thoughtfulness — as well as the insight of what you’ve had to say. We’ve accomplished something rare on the internet: An actual dialogue that never devolved into a bunch of anonymous people shouting at themselves. (Someone contact Guinness.) Pitchfork doesn’t include comments, but I’ll be posting SNM links at Pitchfork’s and my personal Facebook, so let’s continue talking over there…
Before signing off, I wanted to thank Scott for taking the chance of incurring eternal indie-rock wrath by giving me the space for Haunting The Chapel. (Some people don’t want black metal colliding with their chillwave.) I also appreciate that you banged your head at that second Nachtmystium show I organized, made those HTC matches (anyone need some?), and helped me out with banners when I sponsored the High On Fire and Triptykon and tours. I’d also like to thank Amrit for his enthusiasm re: the column — Dawnbringer, especially — and for showing his face at Krallice, Watain (on a first date no less), and Anal Cunt. \m/ to both of you.
While at Stereogum I did more than write HTC — on a daily basis I multi-tasked a dozen things — but I think this is where you ended up seeing me, as a person, most clearly. That said, blogging in general’s made me a better writer. It’s deceptively hard work. In ways it reminded me of my first job, at 11 or 12, picking blueberries 7AM-4PM five days a week at a hot, somehow shadeless Pine Barren farm. (It also taught me more about Weezer than I ever wanted to know.)
At the end of the day, and this particular period, I’m mostly proud of how Haunting The Chapel’s grown and shifted and been accepted in weird, interesting ways. (And pretty awesome seeing that Opeth post blowing up the “most commented” charts.) Considering crossovers and breakthroughs, this installment is a great way to bring things to a close:
Krallice is a band I covered heavily in Show No Mercy and at Haunting The Chapel. They also managed to crossover onto Stereogum proper via the site’s 20 Best Albums Of 2011 So Far. That in mind, I wanted to end HTC by asking Krallice vocalist/bassist Nick McMaster to submit a playlist for Diotima playlist. I’ve also always wanted Nick to write something for the site — he’s one of the most insightful critics on metal I know, but he’s a private guy, and not one to put his thoughts into print. Well, he did, finally. His thoughts and song selections:
01 Aeternus – “White Realm” (from Beyond the Wandering Moon)
Over the years I’ve triangulated my favorite little corner of extreme metal: a sub-subset of black metal which preserves the nihilistic grandeur the genre is known for but employs relatively clear, bass-heavy production, the propulsive power of death metal drumming and the heft of that genre’s low-pitched vocal approach to deliver it. Bergen, Norway’s Aeternus, especially on their demo and first two albums — this song comes from the first, Beyond The Wandering Moon — are a perfect example.
I joined Krallice shortly after the first album was recorded; a certain musical approach and template of influences was already in place. Much of the material on Diotima was begun in this early stage, but in the course of arranging and finalizing I think a fusion was achieved between the pre-existing sound and the more death-tinged vibe described above, and excellently presented by this song.
02 Negura Bunget – “Suier de solomonar” (From Sala Molska)
I met Colin in late 2002 or 2003 through mutual friends, and one of the first records he turned me on to (along with Weakling’s Dead As Dreams) was n’Crugu Bradalui, the work of bizarre Romanian black metal band Negura Bunget, which included a piece of a Romanian fern in the packaging. That record blew me away: I was still working through the canon second-wave Norwegian bands (and late-90s Moonfog petering out … eww) and Bunget just had so many “you can do that??” moments. A year later, while living in Krakow, Poland I found several more albums by the group in record stores that had direct relationships with flagship Romanian record label Bestial Records, and discovered Sala Molska, an earlier effort at once more strange than and more conventionally black metal than n’Crugu. And that version had an awesome pressing error that results in a blip of white noise right during the final break. Yes!
03 Blood of Kingu – “Cyclopean Temples of the Old Ones” (from Sun in the House Of The Scorpion)
Along with Aeternus, Roman Saenko’s Hate Forest project is the other key example of my favorite death-black hybrid. This slot probably should’ve had a Hate Forest song but I just thought this track, by continuation-of-sorts Blood of Kingu, just showed this mode of Saenko’s at its best. The moment at 3:27 or so where the drums and vocals rage and slow bass chords just sink like a stone against a wall of intertwining, independent tremolo melodies is aped several times on Diotima.
04 Ulver – “Hymne VI” (From Nattens Madrigal)
The biggest single influence on Krallice, especially at the beginning, was probably Ulver’s Nattens Madrigal, as the first of the second wave black metal albums to make guitar polyphony part of its mission statement. This song also opens with an uncharacteristically “happy” riff, which is quickly ripped apart by buzzing melancholy—a harmonic and emotional pattern explored on all three of our records.
05 Inquisition – “Infernal Evocation of Torment” (From Nefarious Dismal Orations)
I had never heard Inquisition before we played a key gig organized by Brandon around the time the Krallice debut came out (Editor’s Note: July 2008 at Remains, a show I organized with my friend Matthew), but their ability to achieve a full, multifaceted sound as a duo utterly impressed me. Riffs were catchy but undeniably “true,” and the more death metal-style drumming gave them a powerful edge. It stuck with me.
06 Azarath – “Nuclear Revelation” (From Infernal Blasting)
Azarath is the lesser-known project of Behemoth drummer Inferno. I don’t care much for Behemoth, but seeing Azarath in a warehouse in Lodz, Poland was a formative metal experience; the unhinged rage of a war metal band like Revenge fused to a devastatingly competent rhythmic backbone.
07 Incantation – “Blaspheme The Sacraments” (From Decimate Christendom)
American Death metal was my first love, but teenage me somehow passed over Incantation, and I wasn’t aware of it until Colin and Mick got on a huge kick in the last few years. It’s amazing how much better Incantation has aged than a lot of other death metal I loved at the time (Morbid Angel’s Domination, for example). I think the single-note tremolo storms and dusty production this band is known for have informed our efforts, and the vocal approach of McEntee (here) and Pillard (earlier) definitely informed Diotima; I remember, while working out the vocals of “Litany of Regrets”, Colin asked me to go “full-on Incantation.”
08 Leviathan – “A Necessary Mutilation” (From Tentacles of Whorror)
Certain events aside (it’s depressing how often one has to say that while talking about black metal) I feel that Leviathan was very influential to the increasing number of US bands experimenting with black metal during the end of the last decade. There was a definite preconception among metal heads earlier on that non-European bands couldn’t play this music, at least not in a way that wasn’t outright plagiarism, and while earlier examples can be found, Wrest’s prolific catalog staked out a unique sound that nonetheless sounded faithful to his forebears. I picked this track because I always thought his interludes were the best part of his records, and because his bass playing—an element that is usually neglected in one-man BM bands—sounded fully developed, as if provided by a dedicated member.
09 Neu! – “Hallogallo” From Neu!)
I included this because I loosely quote the riff that begins at 2:04 on bass during in the middle section of “Inhume.” That was an instinctual decision, and I didn’t really think that this record had much to do with black metal, but it is long-form rock built on abstract, layered guitar figures, and upon review, the distinctive “motorik” beat played by Klaus Dinger this song and much of their work is (probably coincidentally) a proto-black metal beat — put a snare in between every bass drum hit and you’ve got the Darkthrone blast, double up the bass drums and you’d have the Burzum beat.
10 Ruins Of Beverast – “Between Bronze Walls” (From Unlock The Shrine)
This one-man German project was something the whole band got into around the time we started playing together, and I’ve always been impressed by Alexander von Meilenwald’s ability to, like Wrest, carve a distinct melodic style out of black metal while handling all the instruments. I think we even referred the main riff at the end of “Dust and Light” as the “Beverast riff”.
11 Drudkh – “When The Flame Turns To Ashes” (From Blood In Our Wells)
The lusher, more expansive side Roman Saenko shows in Drudkh has also been enormously influential for us, particularly to certain songs on “Dimensional Bleedthrough” but also on the title track for Diotima, which employs the “Drudkh beat”—a constant hi-hat rhythm with alternating hits on the bass and snare drums — along with downpicked-but-not-palm-muted chords in the fashion made famous by this group.
12 Abigor – “Universe of Black Divine” (From Verwustung/Invoke the Dark Age)
Though I don’t think our guitarists listened to Abigor, I’ve always held this Austrian favorite as a precedent for Krallice, due to their heavy use of polyphony in the guitars and odd, unpredictable song structures. These elements are utilized to almost comic excess on later albums like Supreme Immortal Art and Channelling The Quintessence Of Satan, but I ultimately prefer the band when they were a little more restrained, as on Verwustung, their first effort. A raging album opener to close out the mix.
Diotima is out via Profound Lore. Also, Nick just uploaded albums from two bands from his “Chicago days” to Bandcamp. You’ll find those at Astomatous and Hymn. As he puts it, “Astomatous is death metal in the vein of Immolation/Gorguts/Morbid Angel and Hymn is a doom/black hybrid.” Both also feature Krallice drummer Lev Weinstein.