Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Krisiun - Conquerors of Armageddon

Krisiun - Conquerors of Armageddon
2000, Century Media Records

My first real experience with this band came at last year's Milwaukee Metalfest. One of the highlights of my torturous trip up north to that glorious assemblage of 20-minute blitzkrieg shows was seeing this Brazilian death squad in action, and later meeting and talking with the vocalist, Alex Camargo. To say that Krisiun put on a great performance has to be one of the most egregious understatements of the year: they quite literally blew my mind. I was treated to the pure essence of savage death metal, in the flesh, witnessing a aural display of violence so insanely precise, commanding, and dominating, that it stunned me, and reminded me (once again) of the amazing power that this music can hold when it is delivered with passion, determination, and an undeniable mastery. I don't remember another time when I have seen a crowd burst into cheers and screams after every single solo - guitarist Moyses Kolesne held the audience in the palm of his hand. For most of their set, however, I was watching his brother Max play the drums, flabbergasted by his skill and the immense speed he attained almost effortlessly - on a kit that wasn't even his. Seeing Krisiun play live is mandatory - they will make believers out of you.

Word of this group first began to trickle in to me about three years ago. At that time Krisiun was still something of an unknown, a cult band, a storm raging on the edge of the world (or on the edge of this country, at least). With a complicated distribution deal through GUN records, out of Germany, their albums were still something of a rarity. For a lot of people, I think, this only made the cult of Krisiun more exciting: you had to work a little in order to hear them. The buzz on this band always mentioned one thing: their incredible speed - they were supposedly faster, really, than any other band. At first I wasn't intrigued by that at all. When someone mentions 'speed' I usually think of Napalm Death and how boring that grindcore formula has become. It took me a while to even bother trying to hear Krisiun. My loss.

In the last few reviews I have done I have been talking about the revival of the 'old' style of death metal - bands influenced mainly by the spirit and melodic vision of groups like Possessed, Slayer, and Morbid Angel. With this album, I think that this small global scene (the bands bringing this style back are from all over the place, really) has come to full fruition. If the last Angelcorpse album didn't firmly nail the coffin lid of overtly technical 'brutal death metal' down forever, then I hope this release will. Concentrating on riffs that are never ostentatiously technical (but which hardly ever become repetitive either), Moyses weaves black spells of swirling distortion with his guitar, freezing you with malevolent fretboard runs and scorching, excoriating rhythms. The drumming is also superb, Max has to be one of the fastest and most unrelenting pounders of the skins out there. His incredible blasts, high velocity double-bass drumming and breakneck fills are awe-inspiring. It is superfluous, really, for me to try to describe the burning ferocity of this music. Krisiun play like they are possessed. You have to hear it to be able to fully realize their power, and in hearing it you will be amazed. It is also difficult to describe the evocative effect of this band - suffice it to say that they are heirs to the type of malefic melodicism that Slayer once spread throughout the world...wickedness lurks deep within their music, staring out boldly at you, and their knowledge of pain, hatred, and anger fills the songs on this album with a truly infernal atmosphere. This isn't the kind of band that pays lip service to 'evil' and then hides behind abstractions or digressions - these guys mean what they say, living, breathing, and bleeding the true metal spirit, and their nefarious intensity is disconcerting, to say the least. It is also very refreshing...

Krisiun are truly original, something that I didn't expect but which I am very pleased by. It is an effect, I think, of the fact that they don't seem to be influenced at all by the bands or music that surrounds them - as if they heard a few essential albums ten years ago - say, Slayer's 'Reign in Blood' and Morbid Angel's 'Altars of Madness' and then never bothered to listen to anything else. Placing themselves in a musical isolation, they concentrated on developing their own pure sound - a potently damaging melodic vision that references earlier bands in an obscure, personal fashion, but which never falls to derivation. I know that it couldn't have happened this way, but that is what they sound like. They have a very idiosyncratic style which just happens to be one of the most powerful and blasphemous sounds on the planet.

I am not going to pick this album apart searching for high points, because the entire record is one long maelstrom of inspiring death metal art. There are metal bands, and then there is Krisiun - they stand alone. This release is, I believe, the first essential album of the new millenium. Buy this, buy 'Black Force Domain', and then buy their others. I can't recommend 'Conquerors of Armageddon' highly enough.

* Note, 06/28/04: Reading this review years later I can't help but wonder what I was thinking at the time, or what exactly was motivating my enthusiasm. It was probably the excitement, still, of seeing the band live for the first time and reveling in their spirit as it is displayed in such a form...even so, this is such a "cheerleader" review that I blush when I read it. Oh well, I'm sure I meant what I wrote back then. I do still think this is Krisiun's best album. "Black Force Domain" may have a few darker melodies and beat this one in terms of speed, rawness, etc. but where that album fails is in its inability to keep one's interest engaged for long periods of time. It bores me. The succeeding release even more so. I think that on "Conquerors of Armageddon" Krisiun reached a peak point in their career where their interest in blasting was tempered, for a time, with a real concentration on effective songwriting. For me it's the little second guitar harmonies (at what? thirds or fourths?) that increase the evocative power of these songs...and also the band's unwillingness to just concentrate on one riff and beat it into the ground through oversimplistic variations. Maybe they felt they had to create a good first impression after signing to Century Media? I don't know. In any case this album was the soundtrack to my summer wanderings through Dallas after the '98 Milwaukee Metalfest and in that capacity it holds a special place in my memories. After this one, I think, Krisiun listened too much to what the critics were saying about their material and pared down their sound to the point where the simplicity negated any atmospheric effect the music could have. This album also features the best production they have ever managed. Destructive bliss.