Locrian - Drenched Lands
Oh, weren't we fooled? The typeface and imagery on this one had me labelling this one as some sort of metal release. In fairness, there is a definite black metal influence to Locrian but their thick black sound carries elements of drone, noise and pitch-black industrial ambience. Locrian, a Chicago based duo comprising Andre Foisy and Terence Hannum, are definitely onto something with their guitar and keyboard improvisations. The arching drone and buzzing electronic throb of 'Ghost Repeater' is drenched in billowing layers of guitar distortion. Imagine ghostlike hums from obsolete machinery in an industrial wasteland. The fantastically titled 'Barren Temple Obscured By Contaminated Fogs' opens with disembodied guitar strums and just as sixties organ style treatments kick in the entire thing is sucked up into a hissing drone. Then there are the voices: a tortured scream that literally tears its way across waves of drone and blackened generator hum. I barely recognised a voice in the opening track, 'Obsolete Elegy In Effluvia and Dross'. I was too caught up in the skeletal guitars chords and chiming keyboards to realise the harrowing low end was in fact a voice.
I like the guitar work on Drenched Lands. It's all spindly and spidery, echoed, reverbed and effected. It's especially good on 'Epicedium', where it jangles around some loose notes, casting off little shards into the soft ambient hum. Layers of massive distorted guitar riffs roll in, like drifting grey clouds on a summer's day, bolstering the ever increasingly frantic guitar work. Maybe it's my disposition but I'm hearing a lot of post-rock and early nineties noise rock in here. The guitar squall of bands like Splintered, and early Skullflower can be found in 'Obsolete Elegy in Cast Concrete'. Feedback squeals and controlled guitar noise gradually form into some drawn out metal riffing, with hellish vocal rasps and screams. The wavering drone and tolling bells that run below ensures a dense and ominous presence. I love the way this track toys and teases with a metal sound that is never fully realised.
There is a distinct metal edge to Drenched Lands, as much as there is with TenHornedBeast, with black atmospheres pierced by guitars, where voices remain gutteral and words largely indecipherable. The final piece is a 30-minute live improvisation clearly showing that these guys have a great ear for texture and effects. Drenched Lands is heavy on the restraint. In lesser hands they could have opted for bombast. And don't forget that the last track is a 30 minute recording of a live performance, originally issued on vinyl as Greyfield Shrines in a run of 300. A substantial addition to an already impressive release.
This review is of the CD release issued by the At War With False Noise and Small Doses labels, but a very limited vinyl edition on Bloodlust is available with an exclusive 3-inch CD of radio session tracks. Drenched Lands is the second full release, and first-full length studio release from Locrian. Let's hope their other material is as good as this, as this is a great release. I'm just a bit pissed that this has been languishing around amidst a pile of review material for sometime.