Krakow
Minus

Norway’s Krakow is a prolific quartet that has amassed quite an imposing discography since their inception in 2005.  Somehow I have remained accidentally ignorant to their music despite seeing rave reviews of them around underground metal webzines and getting a few lauded recommendations by friends that I trust.  The 6 tunes on this release are crammed to the gills with dizzying, genre shedding guitar work, sucking aquatic vortexes that spin a tidal pull of atmospheres/textures, mind-bending rhythms and sudden bursts of pissed-off menace that wrap the gorgeous melodies in decaying violence both unexpected and in-tune with Krakow’s shifting swaps of quiet/loud, fast/slow chaos.

Comparisons to Mastodon, Baroness and Tool are frequent and quite par for the course, as any riff-driven band in the modern age that stretches its sludgy guitar bits progressively towards the outer reaches beyond Pluto is sure to be likened to those three outfits in a single finger snap.  Other than trace elements of the Mastodon sound up to and including Blood Mountain I’m not hearing much Tool or BaronessKrakow reminds me of the galaxy infinite tones of ASG meets an even darker version of Kyuss vs. Dozer in a generator party death match while Neurosis and Eyes of Fire are the referees, Elder hits the winning side with a chair to shift the advantage and Rush sizes up the contenders who might face them for the prog-rock world championship belt.  Oh yeah, the arena overhead speakers are blaring nothing but Taint’s The Ruin of Roma Nova for the entire event.

A sand-coated, shaggy riff teeters off balance during the sunscorched lead-in to “Black Wandering Sun’s” massive, dune eating dirge.  You can feel the ground break apart beneath you while the fluid, walking bass lines utilize tone and groove in equal tandem for the creation of a bunker-built thickness as twin guitars slither in one ear and out the other, choking your brain in a duststorm of gritty, oscillating grooves that constantly pile on more density until lobotomizing the mind with minor-key neurosurgery.  Bassist Frode Kilvik and guitarist René Misje tower above the tank tread riff-grind with a two-side vocal attack full of rising, skyward bound harmonies and midnight moon melody howls.  Drummer Ask’s mesmerizing beats eschew the constant fill-work of your Dailors and Pearts by indulging in a heady beat that’s in the pocket but full of extra strikes, smashes and change-ups while peppering enough flash into the backdrop to keep the music propelling forward like Satan’s torpedo on a collision course to Christ’s battleship.  Progressing beyond the midpoint a night-black ambience allows for starry guitar twinkles and tasteful keyboards to glide atop a funerary bass throb and busy, bubbling tom crescendos.  When the heft returns for vengeance a vile double-kick, unhinged bass clatters and a furious, black metal twin guitar shred invokes a certain mindset that is immediately eviscerated by a punching and tearing 70s hard rock solo lick.  The final catharsis comes in scalding shouted vocals that drag this beast back to the grave from whence it came.

“Sirens” has a skronky, left of center fuzzed-out riff set against a syncopated percussive surge operating within its humble beginnings and reckoning of Rebreather’s increasingly complex mathematical sludge circa Sunflower and Slowdance.  A fattened hog bass groove busts its belt buckle and yields a gross metric ton to the agility primed heaviness.  The heightened melodic sensibility of the vocals easily trounces the Mastodons to which Krakow is weighed alongside.  Constantly spreading their buckshot wider musically speaking, a pained yet melodic white-washed noise lead lends a touch of My Bloody Valentine influence before the warring double-kick drums and a doom-y tempo drop delivers a skin-gnawing bite of sludge to the soft of the neck.  Anvil heavy riffs collide with cavernous melodic lead shouts and backing screams; the song tossing and turning between a bustling, driving attack led by proggy fills and off-time jazz cracks blended with floating instrumentation and an even heavier sludgy scathe than the one heard moments earlier.  An eerie, digitally slashed bass amp howl swirls and buzzes like bees stinging a pile of dirt to death in “The Stranger’s” eerie opening wander.  Shimmering, reflecting clean guitars crawl all over the steadfast, nose-to-the-grindstone drumming that provides limber, supple buttressing to the ethereal singing.  Doomier dread riffs materialize, seeming thin and desolate at first but they slowly bloat into inhumanly heavy shapes.  There’s such presence to the bass on this haunting gruel bomb that it easily overtakes the rhythm guitar at the 3:45 mark and provides the most direct stringed instrument ally to the mind cocooning prog-noise solo.  Slavering screams are the guillotine surprise and when stacked side by side against the masticated sludge downshifts, the combination making for the heaviest section yet on the record.

Applying the brakes and screeching the sonic submarine ride to a propeller severing chug “From Fire, from Stone” is a broken, homicidal doom spree plying a trade of felonious, repetitive grime riffs, army commanding tom marches, yelling vocals that trail off and burn in the ultraviolet heat below the sun and a concrete caterpillar crawl of a tempo that moves to pounce on its target with dislocated haunches.  Gorgeous acoustic guitars and bluesy note bends send this ambitiously psychedelic number into the ionosphere; the sonic division ending up somewhere between Animals and Through Silver in Blood.  As the track unspools near the finale, piercing noise guitar sandpaper rubs away the skin atop of the underlying riffs that are very much the kind of stuttering, staggering ear damaging chord patterns matched to shrill acerbic tonalities that you’d hear from the Am-Rep roster.  The title track is all instrumental, played in the key of rogue tumbleweeds rolled down Dodge City streets betwixt the bullet spray of dueling gunfighters.  There’s a limited palette of riffs and tempos that the band paints with here; opting for a lurching, Western-tinged blues groove sprinkled with searing post-punk drizzle melodies like Across Tundras’ work on the highly underrated Sage welded to the restrained minimalism ala Earth (Hex and The Bees Made Honey…) as a few scattered breaks of heaving metallic guitar work undercuts white-noise melody spires in the glorious fashion of Rosetta. In a true outburst of insanity the careening double-bass salvos, banshee wailing keyboards and melodic death metal sounding guitars culminate this tune with a Garden of Shadows’ kind of vibe.  Album ender “Tidlaus” finds its way around similarly ashen, duskfall blues guitar drones and a very inhale/exhale type of deep bass motion that’s one of the first moments that I can directly liken to Justin Chancellor’s playing.  A rumbling drum bashing and gang vocal chants close the record off with another standout endnote of louder than God n’ plenty riff-y post-rock punishment that you can be sure will suck up all of the angels in Heaven via its soul devouring suction.

Count me in as a Krakow fan.  I’m curious to find out where this record stands in their discography but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Minus is an excellent place to start if you’re a newcomer.  While the prog-doom thing is overdone and overplayed more than most metal genres and it sure did populate far faster than we could ever expect, Krakow actually transcends the tagging and comes off as a lost article from the 70s unleashing an authentic representation of the classic sound with a lot more volume and modern extreme metal influences present within their music.  Overall, Minus is a kick ass record that took me by surprise and won me over with huge songs and top-tier writing.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jay S
September 4th, 2018

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