Thursday, August 9, 2012

Review of "The Clearing/The Final Epoch" by Locrian

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Buy this album

1. Chalk Point
2. Augury In An Evaporating Tower
3. Coprolite
4. The Clearing
5. The Final Epoch
6. On A Calcified Shore
7. Omega Vapors
8. Falling Towers
9. After The Torchlight

“For the better part of a decade Chicago’s Locrian have been creating sprawling, blackened drone masterpieces.  With ‘The Clearing’ (previously release in late 2011 on vinyl only) Locrian’s signature sound of ominous crescendos mixed with powerful atmospherics and pulverizing tension reached its highest point to date, earning the record glowing reviews across the board from Decibel Magazine to Pitchfork.  Locrian achieve what many bands set out for, but few accomplish:  making truly terrifying music without sounding campy, contrived or corny.  Now renamed ‘The Clearing/The Final Epoch’ the record is finally available in CD form complete with a full second CD consisting of almost an hour of rare and unreleased material.  Limited edition first pressing comes housed in a gorgeous mini “tip-on” gatefold LP package.

Plenty of bands play music that sounds dark, but few can make every note bleed black and breathe smoke. Count Locrian as part of that select circle. Something about the Chicago trio's sound is inherently ominous-- it's hard to imagine them playing "Chopsticks" without turning it into an earth-threatening thunderstorm. That effect is obvious in their noisier, more chaotic moments, where metallic noise and intense howls coalesce into scary crescendos. But it's just as strong in their quieter, more ambient stretches, when they build tension not from heightened climax but from sustained nuance.”
--Marc Masters, Pitchfork

Before I jump into my review, I just wanted to say this one was a little hard to review song by song since all songs were eight minutes or longer and mostly ambience. Now that I’ve said that, lets move into the album. “Chalk Point” starts the album off with three minutes of a very mellow yet eerie bass line. What comes after is even weirder with the very screechy guitars, slow drums, and odd vocal chants. At first I thought this was just an intro track but was I ever wrong.

The beginning of “Augury In An Evaporating Tower” keeps the style going. I like the guitar in this song, something about the ambience with the guitar licks over top just sounds great. “Coprolite,” the third track, reminds me of the background music you here in the Diablo game franchise. The acoustic and ambient mix makes me want to go kill demons. The next track is an extremely long track and being seventeen minute track, it was hard to pick it apart. The part I did like about “The Clearing” was the bit where the bass drum, guitar feedback and screaming was going as it gave me goosebumps.

The guitar effect on “The Final Epoch” is really chilled out and the echo layers it nicely, but when the screaming comes in you finally realize how gloomy the guitars are. I think I may have looked too deeply into the next song but I feel proud of my analogy. “On A Calcified Shore” is pretty interesting, although I’d like to say goodbye headphone listeners for the first few minutes. The loud ringing in this song is a little annoying but the guitar in this song makes up for that. Now for my analogy, the guitars remind me of the sounds whales make while conversing through sonar. The end sounds like satellite messages, so maybe its whales in space, or maybe aliens, alien whales, either way this track is nice and mellow.

“Omega Vapors” starts off with a nice keyboard melody. The guitar effect that goes over top of it is chilled out. The guitar on “Falling Towers” sound great, more so alive than the rest of this album and the screams with effects on them are extremely eerie sounding. The album concludes with an organ like keyboard on “After The Torchlight” that is very spine chilling. The last few minutes is just guitar feedback and a creepy keyboard melody.

This album was a hard one to sit through for reviewing purposes. An hour and a half of guitar effects and gloomy ambience is difficult to talk about, but I guess I did just that. Nonetheless, this a very interesting album and I’m sure I’ll listen to a song or two here and there. Locrian are definitely talented in what they do and it kind of reminds me of Varg Vikernes’ prison-recorded Burzum albums but more on the drone side, also with access to more instruments.

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