Sunday, July 27, 2008
On the waterfront: Krallice at Remains
A beautiful waterfront view, free refreshments, twentysomethings milling about on a patio, a cute but unfriendly Beagle, corpse-painted black-metalists, two seemingly fused-together pigs--a mother and its baby, someone said--roasting on a spit. There are probably few locales on earth where such paradoxical sights would be see-able all in one place, but there they were. Having been way behind the curve and not yet having caught Krallice--the new black-metal endeavor featuring Colin Marston of Dysrhythmia and Behold... the Arctopus fame, and Mick Barr of Orthrelm, Octis, Ocrilim, etc.--I headed out to Long Island City with Laal this evening to what I thought was going to be some low-key loft party but was in fact a decently mobbed BBQ/black-metal show at Remains, the gargantuan hangar/workspace of one Matthew Barney.
What to do w/ the high-artification of metal? A quick primer: Barney, one of the most successful avant-garde artists in the world--and auteur of some pretty incredible art flicks, e.g., Cremaster 3--has made no secret of his love for the stuff and featured it in his films in a sort of abstract/conceptual way, presaging the whole Sunn O))) vibe, i.e., the rampant art-gallerization of the metal aesthetic. (Not to mention articles like this.) I'm wary of the whole trend--how could a longtime metal enthusiast not be, at least a little bit?--but what I saw tonight was encouraging: Metal may be going highbrow but it doesn't seem to be alienating the non-beard-scratching set in the process. I saw a merch table from Redrum Records--with all kinds of black, death, thrash, etc., on offer--and plenty of bona fide leather-and-spikes longhairs milling about. I was happy, in other words, to feel quasipreppy and totally out of place.
Krallice--their logo, above, *might* contain their name, but it also might just be really cool to look at--summed up the duality. On one hand, they were totally withering: merciless in that classic black-metal way, where the music seems to approximate horsemen galloping along a frozen plain through howling wind and rain. On the other, though, there were glints of an avant-garde aesthetic: songs that went on long enough to approximate trancey minimalism, plus ultra-alien guitar-chitecture courtesy of Marston and Barr. The music was like a snowballing tank; chugging along, it accrued weight and density and achieved a genuinely epic quality. Barr's vocals were shrieked violently, in a nod to the not-broke-so-no-need-to-fix-it genre convention. There was nothing arty about the presentation whatsoever, just righteous and admirably straightforward rocking and/or blast-beating (drummer Lev Weinstein did an amazing job of keeping a steady, pummeling pulse with just the right amount of embellishment, i.e., very, very little). But knowing Barr's other work, which often touches on a realm that might more accurately be termed modern composition than any sort of metal, let alone rock, it was easy to consider the music outside of its immediate context, i.e., somehow transcendent of its form. When I focused on his trademark filigrees, which really got ample time to breathe, the music took on this dazzling 3-D effect. In other words it was equally appropriate for headbanging and mindwarping.
So I guess the lesson is that there's not much point in being possessive about metal's place in the culture, whether you want to view it as a raw form of folk expression or as some sort of heavily symbolist high-art milieu. The premier bands in the field, like Krallice, hold up just fine under either gaze. (Hear for yourself on their s/t debut CD on Profound Lore; buy here. It's a stunningly atmospheric piece of work; Marston has described his Warr guitar--used in Arctopus--as a hell-harp but his and Barr's work here seems like a far better fit for that tag.)