I've always thought of Krallice's music as a duel, envisioning the guitars feinting, parrying and maneuvering in abstract aural dimensions at ludicrous speed. About a minute into the first brief and unnamed track on Diotima, I realized this mental image would have to change.
Diotima sounds like it was composed for a chamber orchestra. Although performed and recorded with all the accoutrements of metal in this modern age, Diotima unfurls with a symphonic complexity, displaying a concordance and consonance that were largely absent from the band's first two albums. Mick Barr and Colin Marston do not merely match wits and endurance but work together to create songs that ebb and flow in memorable tides of sound. Riffs still rain down in teeming sheets of black metal ardor, but we are able to discern greater shape and movement in the writhing storm.
Nick McMaster's vocals dominate Diotima, delivered with a satisfying deathly roar. This expression of rage offers a new, aggressive dimension to the music and creates a richer contrast to Mick Barr's black metal excoriations. We don't hear Mick Barr's voice until well into “The Clearing,” where his first words impart a fathomless depth of agony and regret. His vocals are used sparingly throughout the album, adding raw slices of splenetic rancor. Following along with the printed lyrics augments the listening experience; the words inject poetic and philosophical arcana into the album's fabric.
While absorbing these orchestral arrangements you'll realize that Nick McMaster has become the band's conductor. His voice colors the songs with malevolent character. His bass tethers the songs to the earth, holding our feet on the ground as our minds trace unrelentingly astral guitars. If you've seen the band live, you know that Mr. McMaster's banging head counts the time as well as any baton.
Diotima evokes an endless array of emotions, and therein lies its greatest strength. We roll down rails of regret, triumph, melancholy, fury and cosmic wonder. Five and a half minutes into the title track, we're treated to one of the rawest moments of melody Krallice have yet offered, and it's extraordinary. This triumphant bite of bitterness is followed by a mutant guitar solo and a prolonged period of impossibly heavy, throbbing, thrashing rage.
“Litany of Regrets” will shake you to your core, instruments fluctuating in unison to create an unsettling and fascinating oscillation. The song begs for a resolution to its sonic tension, but the band ride this unstable wave of sound to the bitter end. This is the point in the album where we fully comprehend the tremendous percussive performance at hand. Lev Weinstein's drums are somewhat subdued in the mix, but they provide Diotima with an organic, eurhythmic thunder.
The two tracks that close out the album are simply brilliant. “Telluric Rings” transposes magnificent harmonies, esoteric undulations and a scathing rhythmic fusillade, ending with a pummeling sprint that sets my head windmilling on every listen. “Dust and Light” completes the journey with an engrossing fog of poignant, scintillating melody, pierced occasionally by Mick Barr's acerbic scream.
If you're anything like me, you have an omnipresent metal soundtrack playing in your head. I can judge the impact of an album by its effects on that mental jukebox. Diotima has blossomed in my psyche after months of listening, filling the empty spaces in my day with its vast aural imagery. The discrete space Diotima has carved in my mind sets it apart from its predecessors, transcending them in memorability and emotional impact. Diotima is a fucking beast.
Diotima is out now on Profound Lore Records. You can check out a few tracks below: