It’s been seven years since Chicago metal droners Locrian released an album. Lucky for me, I spent most of that time ignorant of them, only discovering the group in the last few months when I tracked down a vinyl copy of Return to Annihilation within ten minutes of hearing it for the first time. But even though I haven’t been a witness to their absence, the triumph of their return is palpable on New Catastrophism, a record so plodding that you might think they’ve spent the last eight years trying to lift it.
New Catastrophism is comprised of four tracks, but there isn’t a moment of urgency on them. The shortest track is just under seven minutes, and two of them are longer than ten. But even the longer tracks don’t feel stagnant, even as glacially paced as they may be. The atmosphere shifts in degrees of minutia, making even the subtlest change in timbre feel like a chorus.
But as the record moves on, it adds more movement. A single drum hit joins in “The Glare is Everywhere and Nowhere is Our Shadow.” On the following track, “Incomplete Map of Voids,” the drum beat is joined by a clean guitar—the first melody on the record—which is joined later by a distant screamed vocal. Out of context, it might sound entirely wispy, but after nearly twenty minutes of ambient building, it feels crushing.
By the time “Cenotaph to the Final Glacier” opens with a ragged acoustic guitar and tribal tom beat, it explodes across the sonic landscape like an atom bomb. Distant fuzz guitars join in, burning across the sky for a few minutes before everything fades into a mechanical synthesizer, arpeggiating a rapid rhythm like an ever-growing cloud of nuclear fallout.
It’s a subtle progression—I’m not sure anyone would call “Cenotaph” a heavy song on its own. But tracing the progression of the album from the opening wisps of atmosphere, it’s devastating. It’s that same subtle mastery of atmosphere that caused me to be enamored with Locrian in the first place. And after a seven-year absence, New Catastrophism is exactly the sort of return we could hope for.
New Catastrophism is out August 12th through Profound Lore.