Key Tracks: “Eternal Return,” “A Visitation From the Wrath of Heaven”
“The ends justify the means” is not a phrase commonly associated with music, but it defines what Locrian sets out to do. The noise rock trio’s largely stellar new album is seven songs long, many of which build up furiously into large and loud ending moments. The final track, “Obsolete Elegies,” builds up for twelve minutes before unleashing a slow but heavy outro for the album. Locrian are a tough and complex band, one that most listeners are going to write off pretty quickly.
With a title like “Return to Annihilation” and song titles like “A Visitation From the Wrath of Heaven” and “Exiting the Hall of Vapor and Light,” Locrian comes off like a metal band. Instead, they are an overdrawn noise rock group sitting on the better side of Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Their songs are in no hurry to reach their conclusion, in a fifty minute, seven-track album. Their music is more intense, and often more complex than Godspeed. Locrian’s songs start off on bleak notes, often accentuated by droning guitar and dismal keyboards. The album’s cover certainly helps, one of the bleakest covers in years. I unfortunately did not listen to the album with headphones, but I can imagine that it creates a surrounding experience. The droning of some of their songs grow into their abrasive conclusions, that sometimes feature some screamed lyrics, but not always.
Yet some songs have a certain urgency to them. The album isn’t entirely drones. Opener “Eternal Return” jumps right out of the gate with volume and screaming, ending noisily in only two and a half minutes. The second track, “A Visitation…” is one that builds up, but has more of a defined purpose and less of a bleak nature than the tracks that follow. The fact that many of the songs have a similar structure but vary in tone is beneficial, as the album never gets too bleak or too repetitive, but is instead a dense, heavy, and pleasurably frustrating listen. There is a complexity to “Return to Annihilation” that will never dissipate no matter how many listeners. The album might not hit some of the more disturbing elements it aims for, but it is still a deeply confronting album that works at each of its volumes. Locrian plays for a very limited niche of people looking for challenging and well-conceived noise-rock, but they do it very, very well.
If you like this, try: “METZ” by METZ (2012). Their song structures are much more traditional, and they’re much more upfront with their aural assaults, but it’s an incredible piece of noise rock. The album really makes the listener sweat.
-By Andrew McNally