It’s impossible to attach a label to what Locrian have accomplished on The Crystal World, but it’s dangerously close to that elusive, perfect balance between hostile dark ambient textures and more focused and emotive metal structures. With elements from metal, ambient, drone, and noise, Locrian’s soundscapes are supremely evocative and almost soundtrack-like, like if you took Negura Bunget at their most symphonic and extended that creativity and atmosphere over an entire album, or if you took Xela‘s Dead Sea and made it about 100 times darker. The Crystal World is menacing, harsh, and utterly terrifying at times, but strangely soothing and peaceful at others.
Indeed, the visceral effectiveness of The Crystal World owes as much to Locrian’s use of dynamics, contrast and song structure as it does to the the album’s frightening sonic tapestries and lurking electronics. The opening pair of songs basically amount to one massive build, with the sparse, unsettling crawl of ‘Triumph of Elimination’ giving way to the dirge-like reverence of the closing moments of ‘At Night’s End.’ The opening of ‘Obsidian Facades,’ consisting of desperate, echoing screams which evoke a 28 Days Later-like vision of utter fear and helplessness, owes much of its horrifying impact on the listener to the contrast with the subtle dynamics of the rest of the album and the softening final minutes of the song.
Elsewhere on The Crystal World, Locrian treat the listener to some sonic experimentation while still managing to maintain the dark, tense atmosphere that pervades the album. ‘Pathogens’ features a storm of nearly improvisational percussion over spacey guitar feedback, while the wailing guitars on the title track are used almost as a vocal replacement, giving an emotive edge to the backdrop of quietly mysterious keyboards and ambient distortion.
While it feels like a stretch to classify Locrian’s sound as metal, especially since The Crystal World is mostly devoid of anything resembling a power chord, it still manages to capture the genre’s aggression, its harshness, and Locrian’s music taps into the listener’s primal, subconscious mind in a similar way. The difference is that Locrian does not limit their sonic palette to fit into any particular genre or specific sound, and the result is that this music often penetrates much deeper, taking the listener to places they never thought possible.