Monday, April 14, 2008


The Haunting Presence
Moribund Cult Records

The peculiar, and yet very satisfying trend of American black metal solo projects continues with Seattle's Krohm. Taking cues from the almighty Xasthur in terms of adding doses of space rock and not-give-a-fuck baroque melancholy to his music - although more straightforward than Xasthur, but then it's hard to plumb those depths of despair and innovation simultaneously. And "The Haunting Presence" is so much more extravagant and precisely structured - we're talking apples to orchestrated oranges in many ways.

In terms of the sonic lushness, Krohm is definitely more Celtic Frost than Hellhammer - though the feral autodestruct urge is there in spades, it's balanced by Numinas' seeming fascination with orchestrral sound and the malevolence of drone. Towards the end of "Bleak Shores" the very fabric of the song seems to warp and melt, as if exposed to a great heat. "Lifeless Serenade" owes as much to early Ride as it does to Mayhem in terms of immovable waves of architectural guitar harshness - the vocals though, ah there is the sickness, echoing down musty corridors, an unforgiving inhuman rasp. "I Respiri Delle Ombre" is a galloping war march with an underlying bed of melancholy synth, while the guitars are carefully layered and ringing and effecting like classic shoegazing fodder, just sped up to the nth degree, and to hear that merged with harsh Darkthrone-esque vocal violence.

"Relic" feels like a windstorm of spears like early Mayhemor Marduk - a steady low end tattoo guides and marshals along swails of distortion and black noise. Ditto the intentional throwback riffery of "Memories of the Flesh" - opaque slabs of meathook sharp riffs with almost ridiculously blurred percussion taking a backseat to multitracked incantations and rumbling Casio fugues. "Syndrome" ties up the album with bell-like chimes portending a far darker fate than even the razored guitar could - the lyrics are deilvered with far less affectation but far more manic eyes, like a mad monk - and then upshifts into a minimal, lo-fi thrashy run over which slowly descends an intricate lattice of ruined lead guitar before the track degrades back into its trace elements, muffled chimes and uncomfortable silences.

This is music that worships the depths but somehow strives ever upward for a total ecstatic transcendence. Do you fucking get that in Christian rock or contemporary gospel? No, you get all these cringeworthy Jesus-is-my-boyfriend mash notes. Let us prey.

- Matthew Moyer

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