If your band is going to experiment with a particular sound, to see where it can go and to what lengths it can be stretched, it still must contain the original vision. If the piece of music aims to inspire listeners over the long term, it cannot simply be an affectation of “weirdness” and snobbish obscurity. In the case of a band like Krieg, there may be various levels of experimentation bordering on “post-metal” territory, but the band still retains the spirit of black metal at its core: raw, chaotic, grim, evil.
This is what makes albums like The Isolationist and Blue Miasma such important statements of metal’s enduring qualities. At the same time however, it’s this same genuine core and sincere execution that’s given the band somewhat of an “untouchable” status among much of the metal commentariat. This is why some of the criticism of Transient tends to get muted under appraisals of “well…it’s still an awesome metal album,” as if they’re all afraid of hurting Neill Jameson’s feelings or having him angrily scowl at them at his record store.
By the way, you really, really should follow his Facebook page, where he relates the stream of consciousness of a record store owner… it will immediately make your day better, I promise.
Anyway, there is a lot of good black metal on this album. There are even moments of greatness like “Return Fire” and “To Speak With Ghosts.” These eerie, punishing and spooky numbers embody Krieg’s style of black metal at its best. There is also the fantastic “Walk With Them Unnoticed” which contains some hints of Ashes Against the Grain-era Agalloch. This is the kind of experimentation I’d like to hear more of from the band. A certain kind of metal purist would probably object to this, lest they lend their ears to Alcest and Lantlôs (oh, the horror of it all!!!). Still, I think this type of folk-inspired melodic riffing is an area Krieg can take and easily dominate over most of their peers (“The Sick Winds Stir the Cold Dawn” being another good example from their previous work).
Otherwise, much of the black metal here seems to repeat itself too much. Depending on the type of headphones you’re using, songs like “Atlas With a Broken Arm” sound reminiscent of someone shaking out his or her really heavy bedsheets at a consistent rhythym for several minutes while standing next to you. Yes I know a lot of black metal goes at that pace, but I feel the low-end could have been turned down a bit in the mix (or I just need different headphones). And while the howling darkness is still present in the band’s sound, I felt there was a menacing quality missing in some parts.
And then there’s the spoken word track entitled “Home.” Now, I’m definitely not against the use of spoken-word in principle. After all, Krieg used it to great effect on the intro to Blue Miasma and there are other instances like Tool’s “Bottom” where it can be particularly striking to the listener. When done well, it can pull the listener deep into the speaker’s consciousness at just the right moment before he pulls you down into his personal hell. Here it just seemed to be a little rant-like and pedantic, bemoaning the average person and his or her “pathetic struggles.” To be fair, perhaps this was intentional and reflected something Jameson and his collaborators (including Dwid from Integrity and Thurston Moore from Sonic Youth) meant to express. It just didn’t happen to resonate as much with this listener.
All things considered, Transient is a good if slightly uneven slab of modern black metal. And even if it’s not my favorite from Krieg, it’s good to have them back in action.
Favorite Songs: “Return Fire”, “Walk With Them Unnoticed”, “To Speak With Ghosts”, “Circling the Drain”