Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Krohm - Crown of the Ancients

Krohm - Crown of the Ancients
2000, Self-Release

I am now firmly convinced that Dario, sole member of Krohm and the keyboard player for doom/death megaliths Evoken, feels himself to be limited in many ways by his role in the latter's musical output - why else would he even consider recording music like this? Why even work on other material? While there are so many so-called 'musicians' across the world who are content to rest lightly, fulfilling their place within the framework of their one band, there are also a select few who almost never stop writing music, seriously intent either on leaving a mark on the scene outside of the boundaries they have been given by their 'day jobs', or unable to stop themselves from seeking contrasting methods or avenues of self expression. Krohm is absolutely different from Evoken, the two are not even compatible - some may hear a similar 'mourning' in the two bands' sounds, a likeness of depressive, melancholy effect, but I no longer even hear that. This band is an entity unto itself. The sooner you understand this point, the easier it will be for you to appreciate Krohm's unique characteristics.

Krohm is, for the most part, an original take, from an American, on a strictly Norwegian form of black metal - the path that leads from Thorns down through Manes and Burzum: that of a slow, mysterious, echoing, an uniquely 'cold' or almost 'disassociating' unfolding of infernal, cursed atmospheres, a tradition of melancholy exploration through light and shade, twilight and the deeper tones of a night lit by frozen light from on high. Much of this music is highly suggestive, painting pictures in one's mind, as it leads quite easily to daydreaming alongside its slowly-unfolding, enrapturing melodies. This tradition, almost always one step behind the more 'open' or 'focused' style of extreme black metal pushed forth by Mayhem, Darkthrone (although Darkthrone shares space with the other as well), Emperor, Enslaved, etc. in terms of popularity, as nevertheless always been an important part (at least to me) of what the Norwegians were offering in their music - a counterpart to the brutality of the other bands, a shadow that always lurked behind their burning aggressiveness. Whereas these 'violent' bands were mainly exploring the limits of speed, ferociousness, and the nihilism first assayed by Euronymous, bands like Manes gave a more atmospheric, oppressive, despairing, 'ambient' approach to the same aesthetics, building from similar ethics into different realms of the unlight - exploring the after-effects of such violence, perhaps, or the emotions that gave rise to these actions, the internal fields where anguish, isolation, and depression formed an impenetrable misanthropy.

One listen to this recording will convince you that this band, while definitely influenced by the entire range of Norwegian black metal, is not content to place itself (unlike so many of its American counterparts, who are) in the 'mainstream' of the violent European style - one can feel that a concerted effort has been made to make this band different, in a class by itself, as a counterpart to that other (much more popular or 'accepted') form of music, although I also think that the source for these conviction behind Krohm's aesthetics come from Dario's internal need for a form of music that fit his own highly personalized and subjective instinct for expression. That is, in making Krohm completely different from the regular tide of American bands playing black metal (I don't think there is really another American band like this), he has also made it easier for him to use the music to reflect his most personal emotions...but this is obvious, I am wasting space talking about it. What comes first, the aesthetics or the music? Who really knows?

It is also obvious that Dario must feel that there is still a lot of room for exploration within this type of music...

In any case, this second demo recording is similar to the first, 'Slayer of Lost Martyrs', in its general design, expression, and effect, although one can hear immediately that the songs here have been expanded to be able to reflect different states of mind or moods (instead of just loneliness, say, or depression - they have a greater range), and although a shroud of melancholy, as I said above, hangs over all this music, it isn't as suffocatingly uniform as on the first release - there are rents in its benighted fabric, tears in its side through which the light of the moon shines through. For the most part, the electric guitar work is still atonal, repetitive, and dissonant, constructed from fragmented shards of melody and minor chords, in the grand Norwegian tradition (also sounding a little like the French band Mutiilation in certain places), laying down a foundation of blasted gray earth beneath the 'lost' echoes of the wavering vocals or the slower, scintillating arpeggios that crash into each other in waves of somber reflection, like the minute, cold iron glint of ripples in a fountain from an old black and white photograph. In fact, I think the metaphor or symbol of an old photograph is particularly representative of Krohm's music, its 'aura' or particular feel. One wonders if aged objects could express themselves, if their particular internal language could be translated, wouldn't the music resulting from such a piercing of boundaries sound much like this...filled with an atmosphere of desolation, the melodies of something forgotten, just beyond the range of our ability to 'understand' or adequately encapsulate it...Krohm, to me, is like a monolith that one arrives at after years of travel, and there it stands, mute to most senses, hidden, almost unrecognizeable, dimly suggestive of dream memories, other times, other places...there it stands, singing its anguished song, even though no one can hear it...

If you are looking for any kind of 'judgement' on this material, let me just say this: if I had a label active right now, Krohm would be the first band I would try to sign. I am amazed (and a little saddened) that some able record house has not picked this material up...this is simply one of the best black metal bands in existence right now in America.