Return to Annihilation, the last album from Chicago trio Locrian, took a bit of time to grow on me, as the band dropped out of ambient dronescapes and into noisy black metal. But once it clicked, I found myself listening to it so often that its songs stick in my head even now. On their newest release, Infinite Dissolution, everything is smoother and slicker, with more post rock elements bringing together the pieces of Locrian’s sound.
When I say that this album sounds smooth, I mean that the transitions between sections of drone and black metal and what could be post-punk are almost unnoticeable—graceful, even. “The Great Dying” opens with quiet rushes of sound, women chanting, and incidental tones. A pounding drumbeat introduced more than halfway through brings the drone and the chanting together, putting a beat behind it all for just long enough to shake the listener out of slumber. It’s a structure that’s used by Swans on their most recent albums (albeit in much grander form), where fifteen minutes or more of ambient buildup lead to a momentary return to a more structured sound.
There’s a lot more post rock on Infinite Dissolution than any other genre, including metal—think arpeggios and delicately touched cymbals. Which is why the album’s first track, “Arc of Extinction,” is a bit misleading if you’re looking for it to determine what the rest of the album is going to sound like. It contains one of the only moments on the album that sounds anything like traditional black metal, and that’s mostly due to the blast beats pounded behind fuzzed out guitar. It’s followed by more drone, punctuated only by slow beats and complete breakdowns into static (the end of “KXL I”). The last song on the album is just noise, electronically manipulated, a strange elliptical ending where one might expect another buildup to something more monumental.
The vocal mixing on Infinite Dissolution makes it sound like a person screaming from beyond, buried under layers of sound, becoming just another layer of texture among crackling guitars and synths. On “The Future of Death,” the album’s most rocking song, they stand in contrast to the arpeggiated and rather straightforward guitar licks. In the end, it’s pretty amazing that Locrian can make a cohesive record out of noise and black metal, where “The Future of Death” can stand next to a song like “KXL II”—which includes chirping birds and cello parts—and have nothing sound out of place.