-by Devdutt Nawalkar
Album: “Southern Storm” (2008)
Krisiun have been slogging their asses in the scene for close to two decades now. They’ve always been an acquired taste for listeners; their no-holds-barred blasting and slightly monotonous song structures have alienated listeners appreciative of a more restrained bent. Songs often tend to melt into one another if one’s not in the right mood, and the speed for speed’s sake ethos doesn’t win them many Opeth-club awards either. Personally speaking, I’ve always had a bit of a hard on for the band’s brand of take-no-prisoners death metal. Cult listeners will be quick to point out other bands from the Americas who’ve taken core influences from Krisiun and surpassed the original purveyors. While that may be true to an extent in the cases of countrymates like Raebelliun, Abhorrent, Ancestral Malediction, Nephasth, etc, the fact of the matter is that Krisiun have outstared all comers and are still carrying the flag of pure, hate-fueled death metal that only South Americans seem capable of doing right.
‘Southern Storm’ is the first Krisiun record I’ve checked out since 2003’s ‘Works of Carnage’. While I liked that album a fair bit, there were a few new elements that left me somewhat cold. The band retained their crushing sound for the most part but had slowly started introducing a more syncopated style of riffing. It served the warlike Krisiun aesthetic well enough when used sporadically, but I never thought that they would grow to base whole albums around that idea. Fast-track to ‘Southern Storm’ (giving AssasiNation a skip), and that’s exactly what they’ve done. And what’s more, they’ve somehow managed to pull it off too.
‘Southern Storm’ is blessed with the best production job Krisiun’s ever had. Everything is clear without being sterile (One wonders how the old records would sound with this sort of touch up), and it’s a development that helps the band’s style greatly. Good production has never been Krisiun’s strong suit. They have the dubious honour of owning the universally-reviled production on Ageless Venomous, an album that virtually single-handedly invented the drum-sound jokes genre. That’s all ancient history now though and you won’t be hating the band because of that aspect at least.
Old fans, however, may be flummoxed by the aforementioned style of riffing. Atleast 5-6 songs have regular bursts of staccatoed riffing played to matching drum patterns. It’s an element that feels monotonous at first, desperately in need of some colour. What rescues Krisiun is Moyses’s guitarwork, and the songwriting in general. Moyses has turned in the best performance of his career here, no debate brooked. His playing is sublime, and is handled with a great deal of composure. He goes off on short scalar runs and sweeping arpeggios with a liquid grace that rivals the best the genre has to offer. He sets up inventive rhythms around the machine gun rat-a-tats – take the opener ‘Slaying Steel’ for instance. It opens with the cursory stopstarting riff, followed by a more conventional death metal theme that slides effortlessly into the best breakdown Krisiun’s ever done. Trimmed of all fat, one gets the vibe that the song has a destination to reach, and zero patience for filler.
In a way, that’s the most important feature one salvages from Krisiun’s work today. The band can still blast and kill with the best of them but there is a controlled maturity to the sound now. The band is comfortable with creating a bit of groove, and making some space for their more breakneck parts. The result is that, for the very first time, I find myself remembering bits and pieces from almost all songs. Check out ‘Sentenced Morning’, ‘Bleeding Offers’, which has a lick reminiscent of Marty Friedman’s heyday, ‘Minotaur’, rumbling along like some fodder-hungry panzer, or ‘Combustion Inferno’, which is the best demonstration of the new militaristic approach. ‘Contradictions of Decay’ has the most obnoxiously head-banging riff that’s ever come out of the Krisiun camp, and has the best solo on the record too. Moyses’s work on the short classical instrumental ‘Black Winds’ is also worth mentioning, as is the epic closer ‘Whore of the Unlight’ which finds the band tentatively treading structural territory redolent of, say, an Immolation while staying Krisiun through and through.
A huge part of the Krisiun sound are the distinctive vocals of bassist/vocalist Alex Camargo. He uses zero gimmicks; no introspective, spoken-word garbage to be found here. These are pure, bowel-shaking explosions of rage, and they suit this incarnation of the band’s sound very well. In an earlier version of this review, I had minor aversions to his performance on the cover of Sepultura’s ‘Refuse – Resist’, under the pretext of it bringing little new to the table. On further listens, however, that just might have been the point. Certainly, it’s no match for Max Cavalera’s passionate delivery on the original, but Camargo brings in an incisiveness of his own that has grown on me over successive listens.
Krisiun have really upped the ante on Southern Storm. While it will probably go underappreciated or dismissed by most other than their rabid fanbase, all death metal fans would do well to check it out. There’s life in the one trick pony yet.