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.

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Krallice – Ygg Huur Reviewed

Ah, Krallice. Everyone loves to talk about you. Lovers of experimental music praise you for the genius of bringing new techniques to black metal. Black metal lovers hate you for not being true black metal. Now you drop a new album with no warning that no one knew you were working on.

I’ll admit that back in 2012 I was not ready to review Years Past Matter. I only gave it a 7/10 and admitted I didn’t get it. Buried in some 2014 blog post, I mentioned in passing that I had gone back to the album several times, and each time it got better. I love that album now. I think it is excellent. But that is another review. The point is that Krallice can take a lot of time to digest, and this has only been out for a week.

As usual, I think genre tags hurt here. You can’t go in expecting black metal or death metal with some experimentation. Like basically anything Marston is involved in, this is an experimental band first and maybe some black/death influences second. If you treat the band as something else, you’ll be in for a disappointment.

Ygg Huur is a pretty big departure from their previous effort. First, the album is much shorter. Second, the tracks are much shorter. Practically speaking, this means nothing gets as much development time. It is closer to Behold… the Arctopus in its rapid pacing. Each song has a few core ideas that get passed around, embellished slightly, layered in different ways, and then it’s over.

Part of what made earlier Krallice take a while to digest was trying to grasp the structure of their epic length tracks. This album feels more accessible in this regard. Already on the second or third time through I had figured out the pieces and structure.

On the other hand, there are definitely aspects that make this album less accessible. Their previous album seemed more coherent and melody driven. This album uses a patchwork of shorter motifs which makes the songs feel a little less coherent and more chaotic.

One of the things I praised them for in the past is their excellent use of counterpoint. This is still the case on this album. Krallice often has two or more melodic ideas that layer nicely. They strike the right balance of parallel and contrary motion between the voices.

If you were into Krallice for their epic builds, these still exist on some tracks (particularly “Tyranny of Thought”). They still have tempo changes that happen so cleanly one has to wonder how they manage it with no obvious metric modulation.

The evolution makes sense. Some parts sound just like old Krallice. Some parts are tightened up cutting of the fat. Some parts are new. I think the back half is much better than the first half. I always start the album thinking it is probably an 8/10, but then by the end I start thinking it is more like a 9/10.

So overall, I give it an 8.5/10. It is definitely recommended for fans of Krallice. I’m not sure they’ve changed enough for people who were dismissive of them before to pick it up and start liking it. Here’s a sample:

Krallice: Years Past Matter Reviewed

Krallice’s Years Past Matter came out August 25, 2012. I should preface this review by saying that I really am not a fan of black metal. Every now and again I try to get more into it, but it is so hard like something that is just a wall of muddled sound for an hour. The recentness of the release should give some indication that I’m still absorbing this, so don’t give up hope for me yet.

That being said, there are moments of absolute beauty on this album. Let’s start with some stuff I don’t like. The drumming. I should like that it is a nonstandard way to use the drum set. Instead of some nice beat to complement the band, the drumming is more a tool to add noise to the sound. Granted, it always goes with the music. It is quite well constructed from a technical standpoint, and sometimes darned impressive like in the first song when the tempo is rapid and he plays on the off 16ths of a beat.

I can academically appreciate the drumming as you see, but it just creates an overall aesthetic that is detracting to me. Unfortunately, this is the aesthetic of black metal, so it is completely intentional. I can’t fault them for this. A lot of the songs have a lot of repetition in them. Mostly I don’t like this either. It makes some really good ideas drag on way too long.

This has been a very difficult album for me. Inside of the distorted wall of sound some really incredible things are happening…if you can hear them. The chord progressions are interesting and sometimes even moving. The place Krallice really excels is when they periodically break out of their mass of noise into some crazy counterpoint.

This happens for the first time a little more than halfway through track two: Iiiiiiii, not to be confused with track one: Iiiiiii or track three: Iiiiiiiii (seriously guys?!). This isn’t your standard metal counterpoint I’ve talked about before with Lavinia. This stuff would make Bach proud. It actually involves several independently interesting moving lines perfectly complementing each other.

There are also those moments of beauty that happen. Out of nowhere the messiness just dies to a chord progression that hits me where it hurts. Krallice, you’ll make a fan of black metal out of me yet. Overall, I’m going to say that sifting through the muddiness to try to hear all the effort they’ve put into the songs is well worth it.

The composition of the songs is excellent. They are original and interesting without being obnoxiously obscure. Waiting around for those moments of excitment with the counterpoint and the moments of beauty are also worth it. Understanding this album is not going to come from just a few listens.

I just can’t say I love the album overall, though. If you like the black metal aesthetic, this will probably score much higher for you. That’s why I’m giving it a 7/10.

Here’s a sample (skip to 14:50 for one of those interesting moments):