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Locrian - New Catastrophism

locrian New Catastrophism coverLocrian are an experimental music trio, often cited as drone or doom metal or some variation thereof. Certainly it's part of their sound but testament to their ability and vision they've crafted something unique which never fits neatly into one box. You could also throw in post-rock, prog rock, industrial and ambient and other more abstract genres. New Catastrophism is their first album since 2015's Infinite Dissolution. That hiatus was partly due to life changes for the band members, with some moving away from their previous base in Chicago, and as a result of the upheaval caused by the Covid pandemic. Compared to Infinite Dissolution an album that was to some extent structured - and somewhat metal based - New Catastrophism, spread out over 4 expansive tracks of slow building experimentalism, is much more organic and improvised and much more ambient based - and not the album they planned, or perhaps even the one you expected.

Locrian mark their return with the beatless death march of 'Mortichnia' swelling from a fizzing electrical opening into a hazy aura of buzzing and wavering hum, enveloped in gliding drone atmospherics filled with a heavenly chorus of indeterminate voices, and charged with whirs and scraped strings. It is an impressive if slow start, and it's over 3 minutes into the next track before the first drum beat and some semblance of vocals kick in and maybe that's not even what you were expecting.

That track is 'The Glare Is Everywhere And Nowhere Our Shadow' and it opens to arcing shifting shudders cast against buzzing, windswept guitar ambience, draped in a distant wail of vocal ache, stretched out and mixed down to form another layer of texture. Drums pound sporadically under a sustained wave of distorted guitars and just as the beats coalesce into a thunderous roll and the guitar attack amps up and it seems everything will be set loose it abruptly cuts. An unexpected but genius move proving Locrian avoid the obvious. Locrian always offer an element of surprise and it continues on the following tracks where the guitar becomes more prominent, shimmering in a melodious fashion kind of like Vini Reilly and the Durutti Column - another master of avant soundscapes. Underpinned by drifting airy synths and pierced by passages of rippling distortion the chiming guitar notes of 'Incomplete Map Of Voids' are eventually woven with sheets of rasping vocals and rudimentary drum beats. Massive guitar riffs and rising spacey synths are in there too but they're mixed in as texture. Evocative and cinematic, pared back and powerful, this is Locrian at their best. The final track, 'Cenotaph To The Final Glacier', moves even further away from anything to do with metal. Here plaintive acoustic pick and strum ring out over darkened atmospherics, its beauty accompanied and disrupted by distorted and distended guitar mannerisms before it all ebbs out slipping into glitches and bubbling pulsating electronic tones. Locrian make that sense of beauty and awe effortless, blurring genres and shaping sound in search of moods and atmosphere to evoke emotion.

New Catastrophism also includes the EP, Ghost Frontiers, as a bonus disc with the CD and as a download with the vinyl, but I'll leave that for you to discover. Eschewing muscular riffs for an evolving ambient type sound hinting at the experimentalism of their earlier releases, New Catastrophism proves Locrian are adventurous and innovative. Comprising of a trio of multi-talented musicians dealing with subtlety and nuance they could go anywhere from here. For now though, New Catastrophism is my kind of thing and it's great to have them back. New Catastrophism is released by Profound Lore and is available digitally, as a 2CD and on limited vinyl from Locrian bandcamp