If you’re of a gambling persuasion, you can probably bet on not finding an album as all-over-the-place Kraków‘s newest one, Amaran, over the rest of this year. Don’t be mistaken—that’s a compliment. While the Norwegian sludgy post-metallers use the same basic set of ingredients as they had on past works like Monolith and Diin, they’ve widened their scope considerably for album number three, exploring a more dramatic range of both heavy and psychedelic sounds. As a result, we get a consistently engaging listen that represents some of the band’s best work to date.
On Amaran, the appeal isn’t simply that Kraków are mixing things up with their sound; it’s how often they’re doing so, and how tastefully it all comes across each time. We see this right off the bat on “Luminauts”—which opens with an ominous, melodic guitar pattern and droning, harmonized vocal lines, before then transforming into an absolute crusher, rife with anguished shrieks and thick, murky-sounding riffage. And then, they do it all over again, revisiting an earlier clean passage before closing on a heavier note. And that’s one song! The back-forth, back-forth compositional style might sound like it’d be grating, but the band pulls it off wonderfully.
The sonic shifts aren’t quite as frequent through the rest of the album, but for the most part, they’re just as well-handled. The band explores a trudging, creepily catchy arrangement on “Atom,” (seriously—just try to resist their “send in the clown / the masquerade is on” refrain) before then flirting with a post-punk rhythm and what sounds like a theremin on “Genesis.” It’s a sequence that showcases some of the best interplay between bassist Frode Kilvik and guitarist René Misje, who share clean and dirty vocal duties.
And then, in another shift, things go relatively quiet—and, admittedly, a bit boring—for a couple of songs! But here’s the thing: even as some ventures clearly work better than others, everything on Amaran ends up sounding like it belongs. The whole is quite clearly greater—and in some cases, a whole lot more vital—than the sum of its individual parts.
The closing sequence, though, marks the true highlight of the album. The dirgey, hallucinatory “Of Earth” is easily the most messed up thing here, and one of the creepiest songs you’ll hear all year. At more than nine minutes long, it’s a slow, twisted, crushingly heavy descent into madness. (Quite literally, in fact; you’ll actually begin to feel like you’re losing your mind while listening.) But then, they counter with “Ten Silent Circles”—a calmer comedown that drenches its tapped harmonics in Eno-esque levels of echo and reverb to create a truly dreamy closer.
All in all, a terrific listen, and one you’ll find very difficult to look away from. Amaran demonstrates that—for Kraków, at least—the third time is, in fact, the charm.
Keep it heavy,