KriegIt’s coming up to two decades since USBM stalwarts Krieg started on a career which has seen some of the harshest black metal ever shat out the bowels of all that is unholy. Their 2002 release ‘Destruction Ritual’ was my first real encounter with them and to say it left a horrible stain would be no understatement. The band have matured through the years and have never stopped both developing with the likes of the stunning Black House album of 2004 (including that unforgettable cover of Venus In Furs) and delivering some downright near unlistenable EP’s such as Patrick Bateman 2004 in the process. Although there has never been a turning point as such they have become more experimental at times and defiantly pushed the boundaries of what people may consider acceptable within the strictures of black metal, doing what they wanted throwing some very weird sonic angles into their last couple of albums Blue Miasma 2006 and last full length The Isolationist 2010. Although it has been four years since then, there has been a plethora of splits and EP’s constantly keeping us on our toes not to mention great albums from founding member vocalist Neill Jameson’s other project Twilight, guitarist Alex Poole’s Chaos Moon and last year’s releases from Esoterica and Lithotome featuring various members of the group. They have also been playing a lot of gigs near to home which I keep eyeing up very jealously and Jameson has been keeping the Internet world most amused at his suffering, relating the exploits of running a record shop in his day to day job, which reads like a mixture of Clerks and Gummo!

Anyway onto the latest opus and it is a work which on quite lengthy rotation has struck me as being one of two quite distinct parts. The first seven tracks are on the whole a barraging windswept and tumultuous force which hone in with ‘Order Of The Solitary Road’ with a tribal drum beat then literally tearing and shredding, clawing its way ever more ferociously and beastly into a welter of bruising abuse. Vocals are feral, the sound is bass heavy and everything is spat out without remorse. Settling down, the opener hits a bouncy groove and literally throws you about momentarily before going for the throat once more and then evolving into a doom-laden apocalyptic clamour. There’s plenty going on here and Jameson’s vocals are wretchedly forceful and ooze danger as they shriek and splutter in distempered fashion as though he is literally not prepared to take any more of the shit he has been dealing with. There are some strange interludes like some ambient noise on ‘Circling The Drain’ and although this has violence and antagonism at its heart things are far from one dimensional. Return Fire is crusty as fuck, no other way to describe it as it sounds like it has crawled through a cesspool of filth to be spawned covered in slime and bounce into life with a course filthy punky bombast flowing through it before breaking apart in a sludgy morass. The strangely entitled ‘Atlas With A Broken Arm’ sounds and feels like being hit of the head repeatedly with a brick and makes an uncomfortable listen before opening up with some glorious melodic guitars lifting the mood amidst the threatening hideous shrieks from the front man.

I hadn’t taken any notice of the track list before pressing play but was really chuffed to instantly identify the cover of Amebix ‘Winter,’ damn they do it justice too and it has been really difficult not to keep playing this. There are definite hints of post punk throughout the album but Krieg nail this version with the thick weighty drumming and fluttering guitar work. I can’t find the info on who did the vocals (and don’t think it’s Jameson) but the hollering call and chanting backing parts are spot on.

It sees that dividing line as the last four tracks are much more experimental in nature. ‘Walk With Them Unnoticed’ feels like the mood has really lightened akin to a very fat person unbuckling their belt and letting it all hang out. Melody really shines through and it’s got a feel that would not be out of place from a shoegaze band from the 80’s if it were not for the craggy vocals. The fret work definitely gets a much more defined part now and ‘Ruin Our Lives’ is both upbeat and depressive in equal measures which makes me want to tag it as ‘downlifting’ music a term that really fits before it very oddly goes into electronic noise with even a light hip-hop sounding beat behind it in parts before battering back in. ‘Home’ is not a cover of the Public Image track although that would be excellent but a slice of rugged  Americana spoken word over drone which tells a story that you just cannot help but be drawn into. Apparently the vocals are done by Dwid Hellion of Integrity and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth and recent Twilight participant. It’s completely unexpected and really very soothing as it flows over you. It’s left to Gospel Hand to give it one last push, part gnarly, snarly savage shake and part grandiose shimmery guitar flurries and finish the album which has both pushed boundaries and delivered the best violent black metal heard for some time.

Now all that we need is to get Jameson out of his record shop hell and all its eccentric characters for a few weeks and book a Euro tour as it has been ages since Krieg last graced our shores!

(8.5/10 Pete Woods)