Locrian – Return to Annihilation | Review

As one of the most industrious experimentalists in underground metal, Locrian are quietly revered as a band that holds a weight of artistic integrity. Since 2005, the core of Locrian—talented instrumentalists Terence Hannum and André Foisy—have spread an urban disease across every audio medium known to man. Locrian have also chosen their artistic steps with care and consideration, and because of a reluctance to dilute their ethos and the quality of their prolific output, Locrian’s notoriety has increased dramatically over the last number of years. Shrewd collaborations with likeminded artists, the joining of percussionist Steven Hess in 2010, as well as the 2012 reissue of ‘The Clearing/The Final Epoch’, have culminated in the band’s signing with Relapse for their latest full-length, ‘Return to Annihilation’.

Decorated with a misty, grey image of a parking lot occupied by a lone shopping trolley, the cover provides a clue as to the high-concept of Locrian’s Relapse debut. ‘Return to Annihilation’ is split into two parts with inspiration bleeding in from Walter Benjamin’s ‘Arcades Project’, Thomas Browne’s ‘Hydriotaphia’, Samuel Delany’s ‘Dhalgren’, and Genesis’ 1974 prog-rock landmark, ‘The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway’. A scholarly knowledge of these works—which crosses cryptic literature, cultural criticism, and prog-rock tales—is not detrimental to the listener’s experience of ‘Return to Annihilation’, yet detailing the influences that feed this particular apocalyptic concept is necessary to cast light upon the intensive efforts Locrian have gone to create this album.

Beyond conceptual and visual lines, the music contained within ‘Return to Annihilation’ is just as indicative of the repulsive repetition and near-devastating degradation of the modern world. It is a concept wrapped in an aural critique that mainly relies on synthesized effects and loops melding with disengaged guitars (electric, acoustic and bass), cyclic percussive churns, and the rare emergence of a ghostly vocal. The band mines the obscure and experimental depths of post-black metal, electronic, krautrock, prog-rock, shoe-gaze and drone to create free-standing structures where dissonance and elegance meet as a cohesive whole. ‘Part I’ of ‘Return to Annihilation’ spans “Eternal Return” (a surprisingly hopeful sounding shoe-gaze song) to the three-part title-track. The juxtaposition between earthy acoustics and cold synth-drones throughout ‘Part I’ is seamlessly arranged, and the atmosphere is sinister in an unassuming way as the instrumentation carries with it a dark, intangible tension. ‘Part II’, according to the band’s concept, is the reflection of internal (the protagonist) and external (world) disorder resulting from the appearance of two moons in the sky. The skin-crawling doom of ‘Panorama of Mirror’ captures the mood of such pandemonium, before the four-part finale ‘Obsolete Elegies’ pulls the acoustic and electronic moons together as one with its resounding riff-led climax.

What you will notice after repeat listens of ‘Return to Annihilation’ is that the often visceral nature of Locrian’s past releases is sacrificed to suit the narrative, which is dictated eloquently to the listener often without the need for words. It is an album that exists in many dimensions and, as is the case with all great conceptual art, the thematic and sonic layers lend plenty to consider and envelope oneself in. ‘Return to Annihilation’ is an appropriate accompaniment to watching the world collapse around us, whether it occurs because of a catastrophic event or a slow erosion.

Dean Brown

Band info: www.facebook.com/LocrianOfficial
Label info: www.relapse.com

Dean Brown is a metal scribe based in Ireland. He is currently a contributing editor to the North American cultural magazine Popmatters and he regularly throws words for a number of other reputable loud noise publications such as About.com/heavy metal, Soundshock.com, MetalIreland.com, MoltenMagazine.com, amongst others. He has a strong affinity for music that shakes souls and leaves debilitating tinnitus in its wake and such obsession has left him financially and medically crippled, but he wouldn’t have it any other way. Follow Dean on twitter @reus85