A Rebuttal to Gabe Kagan’s Review of Ygg Huur

I’ll start with a caveat, so people don’t get the wrong impression. I think it is perfectly reasonable for someone to give Krallice, and Ygg Huur in particular, a chance, yet come away with nothing of worth. If it doesn’t speak to you, then it doesn’t speak to you. Heck, it doesn’t really speak to me. But it is intellectually dishonest to coach this criticism in factually incorrect statements just to give your criticism weight. Say it like it is: you don’t like it. Don’t give some faux analysis filled with nonsensical hyperbole.

You can go read the full review made by Gabe Kagan here. I’ll pull out the most egregious quotes and give a rebuttal.

“Every second of Ygg Hurr takes on a different meter, rhythm, tempo, tonality, and so forth.”

Let’s ignore the fact that you wouldn’t be able to tell if these things were true, and get to the part where they are patently false. There are certainly bands that take the approach of complicated time and tempo changes, but arguably early death metal classics do this more than Ygg Huur.

Take the first minute of the first track. It consists almost entirely of quarter notes and eighth notes with some half notes near the end of the minute mark. Here’s roughly the sheet music (I couldn’t hear exactly which guitar had which part due to the closeness of the registers and the distortion, and the very end notes might be slightly off). There has been no simplification:

Screenshot (15)

This exact idea repeats many times with slight changes in texture and embellishment. How someone could call this strange rhythm is beyond me. I guess one way to count it would be to alternate 5/4 and 6/4, but this hardly counts as “changing meter” because you could call the whole thing 11/4.

There are no tempo changes. There is one established tonality: a minor. In fact, you’d have an easier time arguing the tonality as too static to be interesting. This track plays like something Ulcerate would do. The only way someone could make the above quote is if they haven’t listened to the album, or they are ignorant about what any of those terms mean.

The meter, rhythm, tempo, and tonality all remain fixed throughout the song. Some of the later songs introduce a little more complication but not much.

“Instead of dwelling on one simplistic idea for an enormous quantity of time, Krallice abandons all their previous concepts like clockwork because it’s already time for the next riff.”

I’ll stick to the first track again since we have a reference for it, although I think many of the tracks follow a similar structure. I’ll give Gabe that some of the motifs presented on the album are not simplistic (though the one I wrote out above is quite simplistic), but Krallice does dwell on these ideas enough for there to be clear development. I actually only hear one riff per song unless there are clear sections, in which case each section only develops one riff.

The first track consists entirely of developing those first two measures I wrote out. When the vocals come in, the parts get elongated, probably to change the focus to the vocals. The sounds that come from those measures are the foundation for the rest of the song. I’m pretty sure nothing in the song is a new idea after those measures. Sure, 3 minutes isn’t an “enormous quantity of time,” but it’s only 2 measures making up that material. They most certainly do not jump around from riff to riff on this album.

“I really need to brush up on my mathematics so I can make a proper reference to deterministic chaos and attractors, but even without such a metaphor it should be apparent that Krallice’s music isn’t very well thought out.”

Again, this criticism is almost the exact opposite of the one that ought to be made. One might be able to make the argument that the music is too well thought-out to have the emotion content of the great classic black metal bands. Look at the sheet music. It is almost perfect traditional counterpoint. You have similar motion balanced with contrary motion. You have anticipations and suspensions. You have an echo between the voices. This doesn’t happen by accident and without planning. It is strange to argue otherwise.

“As a result, Ygg Hurr showcases every idea that Krallice’s members must have thought was even marginally cool, without any cohesive logic or anything in the way of quality filtering.”

I think we’ve sufficiently dealt with this already. Krallice have actually composed quite cohesive songs, and the songs themselves don’t have the smattering of ideas Gabe seems to think. They tend to focus around one or two ideas.


13 thoughts on “A Rebuttal to Gabe Kagan’s Review of Ygg Huur

  1. Eden Porter says:

    What a bizarre original review. I’m reminded of the book-report nature of this Native Construct review with lines like “The band uses tools like counterpoint, syncopation and harmony expertly”. http://www.heavyblogisheavy.com/2015/04/13/native-construct-quiet-world/

    • fenrir says:

      It’s not bizarre, it just makes outlandish claims trying to bite more than it can chew. The style seems strange to you.. probably because most reviews are empty emotional nonsense with politically correct undertones and usually include an artistically irrelevant discussion on studio production from an amateur’s point of view. Metal “journalists” in general no NOTHING about 1) music (composition: arrangement, balancing, proper style description, etc) 2) art appreciation in general 3) technical production. 4) philosophy — crucial to discussion on art, even from a basic point of view.

      See Anthony Fantano for a prime example of a charlatan.

  2. Belano says:

    I’m a regular reader of deathmetal.org and I usually share its tastes. Now, having said that, your critic is interesting, because it looks to me like you’re factually correct regarding what Gabe has said. But only in one sense: the words he used to describe the music aren’t the best ones, even erroneous maybe. But in another sense we can’t deny his experience: he had the feeling of being listening disjointed music. The only reason to deny his experience would be to assume, like you said, that he isn’t acting in good faith and haven’t listened to the music. Since I believe we win more if we assume he’s acting in good faith, it seems better then to understand the words used in the review in the line of what fenrir commented: he’s “trying to bite more than it can chew”, at least regarding the terminology used.

    Why I’m saying all this? Because I feel the same way as Gabe regarding the songs I’ve listened from that album. But, since I’m not a musician, I can’t describe why is that. I can only say that to me it doesn`t sound as black metal and, second, that I don’t “feel”, “listen” only one idea being developed, but rather several musical ideas mingled together. It could be interesting, I think, if we could delve into this topic in depth and find what elements of the music are making people like me and Gabe think it is chaotic, in a bad way, music. If we proceed this way, there would also be more precision in the description of music for future reviews.

    • CMR says:

      Here’s the thing with “feelings”: You can’t really _disagree_ about feelings. If someone says, “This Krallice album made me feel good,” and someone says, “This Krallice album felt disjointed and I don’t like it,” there is no DISAGREEMENT. There are simply two different reports from two different people about their respective feelings.

      However, regardless of one’s subjective feelings, you open yourself up to criticism as soon as you offer _reasons_ for your subjective feelings. Sometimes those reasons are just dumb. For example, if you say “I don’t like this” because it “changes time signatures too much”, but in fact no time signatures change, then you are dumb. It doesn’t matter what your feelings are.

      Personally I like DMU a lot overall, but their newer reviews are mostly just terrible. The reviewers are apparently trying to adopt the old Dark Legions Archives’ writing style to sound sophisticated with pseudo-technical jargon and some occasional reference to musical theory that is pretty much always off-base, while in reality they just end up sounding pedantic and foolish and not informative.

      • Belano says:

        CMR, I’m with you in what you’re saying, really. And I think that the rebuttal is spot on the problems of the DMU review. My comment didn’t try to imply that it was wrong to criticize Kagan’s review. My comment tried to lead the discussion to something I’m interested: in what musical objective traits Kagan (and I) feel the disjunction of the music, if it wasn’t the time signatures, as this article prove. But, well, I think it doesn’t matter now.

  3. We’re approaching March and you haven’t written an actual music review yet. I said I would prefer you went back to doing less but thorougher reviews, but didn’t expect them to take so long to write!

    • hilbertthm90 says:

      The only thing I’ve really listened to from this year is the Dream Theater giant thing (I’ve been using my break from metal to catch up on some classical listening). There might be an interesting review there, but I’m not sure. The thing is brilliant from a “rock opera” perspective but kind of terrible from a metal perspective. Does doing something “bad” on purpose make it okay?

    • Frog says:

      I’m guessing no.

  4. C. R. says:

    Curious what you make of more experimental, open approaches that even let humor play a randomization function in it. This is the upcoming EP of our band Girgots, based in Los Angeles: https://girgots.bandcamp.com/releases

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