Three years ago, Chicago trio Locrian released The Crystal World a terrifying piece of droning black metal. Terence Hannums screams sounded like those of a man being gored in some medieval dungeon. Under waves of murky reverb, Locrians atonality was a visceral horror rarely heard in metal or any musical genre, equal parts Burzum and Brian Eno.
Locrian have since moved past the 7th circle of The Crystal World, though they havent ditched the bleak atmospherics. On Return to Annihilation, the band puts its darker black metal elements up against blissful shoegaze and wide-open arrangements.
Their compositions are vast and unpredictable; the calming Two Moons segues into the somber Exiting the Hall of Vapor and Light before Return to Annihilation dishevels that fleeting serenity with a guttural explosion. Hannums harsh vocals remain drenched in feedback, and on opener Eternal Return, he sounds like a guitar, wailing through the song’s climax. The trio of instrumentals that follow, beginning with A Visitation from the Wrath of Heaven, showcase Locrians newfound eclecticism.
Obsolete Elegies is the records 15-minute closing piece and the summation of Return to Annihilation. Locrian floats between dead, unsettling ambience and volatile drones of noise. The smooth flow between these passages evokes a range of moods while maintaining a singular atmosphere (the dense fog on the sleeve being an apt visual). Along with contemporaries Deafheaven and Sunn O))), Locrian is transposing the black metal template onto other genres and sounds.
Return to Annihilation has its darker tones, but it also has bright moments and sees the band developing variation in its songwriting. While they still wander adventurously, Locrian’s soundscapes are beginning to resemble fully realized songs with a beginning, middle, and end.
Essential Tracks: A Visitation from the Wrath of Heaven”, Obsolete Elegies