Krieg - The Isolationist
Black Metal
11 songs (55:26)
Release year: 2010
Krieg, Candlelight
Reviewed by Goat
Album of the month

It’s been interesting to note a bit of a backlash against USBM from the more kvlt members of our forum of late. Apparently, it’s gone from being true dark nihilistic fury to ‘trippy shit’, as one of our most respected Black Metal warlords described the last Nachtmystium, and not in a good way. I sort of agree, up to a point – there’s no reason bands can’t experiment with their sound and not everyone should expect to appreciate it as much as their former output. Still, if there’s a band that you can rely on to be consistent in kvlt pulling power, it’s Krieg, resurrected brainchild of Imperial, and latest album The Isolationist is a worthy new injection of substance. Joining Imperial here is Leviathan’s Wrest on bass, Woe’s Chris Gregg on drums and Noctuary’s Joseph van Fossen on guitar, making this something of a mini-supergroup in some ways. As for the music, well, think The Black House with more experimentation and you pretty much have this down pat, although as ever Krieg defies easy definition. For one, the slimy bass, deep, barely noticeable, but most definitely there, like a horror in a barely-lit room. For another, the sheer personal nature of Krieg’s music is apparent, as ever, the deranged drawings of a mental patient undergoing some kind of therapy. It’s hard to escape the impression that this is a dialogue between Imperial and you, the listener, as he tells you of his fears with a backing soundtrack designed to make the experience as psychologically chilling as possible.

Will everyone have this interpretation? Probably not, but it’s certainly impossible to fault the music or the vocals, Imperial’s dry shriek riding impressively over the cascading whir of guitars and rampaging destructive drums. The songwriting itself is interesting, as when the album ‘clicked’ it genuinely threw me – I was only half-listening my first time around, and it seemed the usual fast-blasting inferno that you generally think of as Krieglike, but there’s actually a lot of experimentation going on that becomes apparent when you pay attention. Take Depakote, a seven-minute nightmare that begins with melodic tones and backing fuzz, before Imperial growls and drum crashes join in. The track builds slowly, launching into speedy Black Metal before stopping completely and restarting as some kind of uncanny Public Image Ltd set of post-punk beats with snarls and crackling guitars – it works wonderfully, and it’s hard to think of another band who could do that. Fantastically, the band are able to create atmosphere from any ingredients – I can imagine some future Krieg album where Imperial decides to whistle and play the accordion on a track, and have it sound as supremely twisted as ever.

I was tempted to just describe that one track, and leave the rest to your own discovery, but I wouldn’t want to shortchange the album. The sheer expertise at work amazes me, a good example being in the choice of samples that open No Future, before the music forces its way in amongst sudden yells – I jump each time, and the cold, almost Blut Aus Nord styled noise-as-riffing does little to reassure you after that. Few shades of light are to be found anywhere, and I’m sure I don’t need to tell of the harrowing Photographs From An Asylum, the name is enough! Moments of melody can be found, such as in the surprisingly grandiose All Paths To God, but they aren’t happy, cheerful melodies by any stretch of the imagination. There’s even a bit of groovy headbanging to be had on Ambergeist! Yet in general, the experiments veer towards the weird and atmospheric – the unsettling percussion and noise of Religion III, for example, or the doomy plod of Blue Of Noon.

Atmosphere is caked all over the album in buckets, Imperial doing as good a job as Varg at the ‘woe is me, I am alone’ shriek of nihilistic despair. The difference is, of course, that whilst Varg is deep in some forest, Imperial is in an urban wasteland, the slowly rotting limb of some faceless dying American town. The oddly catchy raw bleakness that hits you like a hammer in ...And The Stars Fell On is as true and kvlt as any Norwegian blizzard, and I think that this difference in setting yet similarity in tone is what ultimately makes USBM as worthy as it is when performed best. Whether they are deep in nature’s embrace or being strangled by the city, these American bands seem to be about the loneliness of the protagonist in their setting – something that comes through perfectly in The Isolationist. Krieg have always been the standout American Black Metal band for me (a more in-depth look at the back-catalogue is long overdue) and The Isolationist is at once a reaffirmation of Imperial’s dark values and a brilliant piece of Black Metal, traditional yet unique. Those aforementioned particularly kvlt members of our forum should pay heed – Krieg's latest is more than worthy of their time, and everyone else’s.

Killing Songs :
No Future, All Paths To God, Ambergeist, Depakote, Blue Of Noon, Inhalation Decays, ...And The Stars Fell On
Goat quoted 91 / 100
Other albums by Krieg that we have reviewed:
Krieg - Transient reviewed by Neill and quoted 90 / 100
Krieg - Destruction Ritual reviewed by Tony and quoted 81 / 100
Krieg - Patrick Bateman reviewed by Daniel and quoted no quote
Krieg - The Black House reviewed by Daniel and quoted 97 / 100
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