Krieg’s latest The Isolationist is not only one of the better USBM albums I’ve heard recently, but also probably one of the more interesting black metal albums to have come out this year. At first listen the album came across as rather bland, but after a while the various tracks start to separate themselves and The Isolationist’s excellence becomes apparent. The album’s decayed, morbid atmosphere and sinister harmonies already help to differentiate it somewhat, but Krieg manages to back it up with songs that are actually pretty varied and unpredictable.
The ugly, ashen sound and production on this album is probably its main appeal for me. Imperial’s black metal mastery is apparent in the gruesome tapestry of Krieg’s sound, which melds ragged, animalistic vocals with wormy, stripped-down riffs that writhe and slither through each song. In some places The Isolationist vaguely resembles Blut Aus Nord’s recent output, with the vocals and oddly disharmonic, shapeless guitar riffing working together with the understated drumming. It’s easy to lose yourself in the dreary, haunting atmosphere of this album.
Though The Isolationist often sticks to mid-paced, depressive dirges for many of the tracks, it occasionally becomes more adventurous. Most unusal is ‘Depakote,’ which features little more than a sparse drum beat and displaced screams before giving way to noisy black metal for its final 90 seconds. ‘…and the Stars fell on,’ is also one of the more interesting tracks, featuring a ghostly, depressive riff that tunnels its way into your head over the course of the song before dissolving into a sobering burst of static at the end. Several other tracks like ‘All Paths to God’ and ‘Blue of Noon’ feature some excellent guitar work, and ‘Dead Windows’ kicks up the tempo a bit to close off the album.
This latest album of Krieg’s is actually the product of a USBM all-star team of sorts, with Wrest (Leviathan, Lurker of Chalice) helping out on bass and Chris Grigg (Woe) handling the drums. In the end I feel like The Isolationist is a much better black metal album than any of the releases by other projects these guys are involved in, which is a testament to Imperial’s skill and vision.