This phase of Krallice’s career seems to be driven by surprise mini-releases, almost as if they shifted gears from the very rockist perspective of dropping full LPs to the more electronic or dance music idiom of small, self-contained units. In the instance of their latest unannounced EP release, they have turned their eyes back to Loum, the collaborative LP they cut in 2017 with Dave Edwardson of Neurosis. Wolf is, in brief, a death-doom record spiced up with the heavily synchronized Zappa-metal punches of Orthrelm/Ocrilim/Octis solo work of Mick Barr.
They are, as always, competent on this release, dropping five compelling tracks coming in at around 15 minutes total. If you average that out, you have the shortest song lengths of the band’s career thus far, which would be a mere dead fact if not for the band’s esteem being built largely off of the back of macroscale shifting compositions, resembling at times a hybrid of minimalist composition pressed against Zappa-level unison runs, songs passing more like geological movements than discrete standard pop structures. This shift, however, isn’t new for the band; their work since their brief hiatus following the release of Years Past Matter has been smattered with these shortening song lengths, something seemingly born out of a heightened trust in each other under the framework of this band. They’re all great players, obviously, and have astounding resumes, but the notion that this band works not just on a critical level but also as a band seems to have ticked over for all four of them. It’s that sense of trust in their process over whatever idiom or genre constrictions critics may want to overlay on the band that seems to be driving this phase of their career.
Wolf shirks the vibe of some of the longer releases of this phase of their career (Hyperion, Ygg Huur, Loum, Go Be Forgotten) and instead draws more from Prelapsarian, offering two bookending death-doom tracks delivered in requisite Krallice style of angular riffs and jazzy, meaty stabs of the bass sandwiching strange organic sketches. Those middle tracks often resemble Barr solo work with their unorthodox movements that follow a tight internal logic and draw to a close quickly, offering avant-garde mostly instrumental sound sculpture in miniature. Where Barr’s work often skews to the technical to a degree that can be difficult listening, especially for the uninitiated, within the context of Krallice the members seem to have learned each others quirks so as to best navigate those quirks and twists of composition to feel smooth, organic, and natural even at their most absurd and bizarre.
These smaller releases tend to be experiments in naturalism for the band, taking a small sketch of an idea and producing a miniature replicable unit, a proof of concept for later work. They also represent—and this is pivotal—the idea that the band is not making heady cerebral music for intellectualists and mind-geniuses as some critical discourse can paint them as, but are instead making kick ass, fun, innovative extreme metal and progressive music. Wolf does not feel constructed, even at its most tense and angular. It does not feel like the band busted out graph paper and mapped out mathematical structures and patterns and efflorescence and iteration of modes to make these songs. Wolf sounds like a band, an immensely talented and slyly cheeky band, shapeshifting like rogues under the eye of critics and fans alike. It’s mercurial, but not to a wild degree; the band has always played the music they want to play. They’re just proving it’s not a scheme.
In doing, with these small projects, not unlike the strange spin-off records King Crimson was producing in the late 90s to early 2000s, Krallice reminds us that this is their natural vision as a unit for what best to sound like and how best to play. The music is not less cerebral on Wolf; in its 15 minutes, it delivers the same palpable urge to bust out the Hegel and Deleuze and hit the books on schizophrenic anti-capitalist analytic and any other favorite high-intellect pursuit to work against the score of their complex progressive extreme metal. What it is is more natural, less affected. They don’t need 15 minutes to craft a knotty bundle of technical riffs that flows better and more naturally in a more kickass way than your other favorite tech bands. When they use that real estate, it’s because they want to.
Wolf is a proof of concept of the virtuosity of the group, player by player, and what we should mean when we think of the term. The longest songs here are the most simple and the shortest the most complex, and all of them are listenable and immediately enjoyable. Krallice is at the top of the heap of post-Weakling prog black metal. Wolf reminds us why.