LOCRIAN are prophetic voices of decline. The Chicago/Baltimore trio formed in 2005, as a duo of André Foisy (guitar) and Terence Hannum (keyboards/vocals). From their beginning they comfortably straddled both the experimental and metal underground. Urban decay, environmental destruction, birth/death/re-birth, and post-apocalyptic themes weave there way throughout their releases. In 2009, the group expanded to a trio with the inclusion of renowned experimental musician Steven Hess (drums/electronics), beginning with their critically acclaimed album The Crystal World for Utech Records, a breakthrough release for the band.
The group has released a number of critically acclaimed albums, collaborative albums, and EPs, that have been praised by Pitchfork Media, the Chicago Tribune, Spin Magazine, and numerous other publications.
In 2011, the group signed with Relapse Records, which brought the group’s work to a much wider audience beginning with the rerelease of The Clearing (originally released on Fan Death Records) & The Final Epoch 2xCD. In Summer 2012, the group recorded their Relapse Records debut Return to Annihilation, an album that Pitchfork writer Grayson Currin claimed is the group’s “most provocative and engaging Locrian album to date.”
Review taken from pitchfork.com :
For a band so devoted to endings, the noise metallurgists of Locrian are surprisingly keen with beginnings, too. More than a year ago, Relapse Records announced they'd signed the Chicago-and-Baltimore trio. The move seemed surprising at the time, but not because Locrian’s electronics-and-effects-driven approach was at odds with the more orthodox heavy metal roster at Relapse; in fact, the label’s two decades are dotted by momentous dalliances with experimental music. Instead, before signing to Relapse, Locrian released a lot of music, a strategy that worked for a band putting out very limited editions on rather small labels but maybe not one meant for a fringe act now signed to an imprint as large as Relapse. Just how many Locrian eight-tracks or singles could and would Relapse actually handle?
Since the deal, though, Locrian have only issued three titles-- a re-release of one such short-run record bundled with new material, a glacial collaboration with kindred lurkers Mammifer, and a beautiful piece with German sound art veteran Christopher Heemann. After many consecutive years of several albums, splits, and singles each, Locrian went almost silent-- just not behind the scenes. All along, they were sketching, building, and refining Return to Annihilation, their proper Relapse debut and step into a much bigger spotlight. It's an auspicious new phase of their existence: Return to Annihilation is the most provocative and engaging Locrian album to date, a brilliant mystery that evades simplistic definitions by turning their historical din and destruction in on itself and, sometimes, back again.
In initial interviews for Return to Annihilation, Locrian-- multi-instrumentalist André Foisy, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Terrence Hannum and drummer Steven Hess-- spoke about the influence of Genesis on their new work. It felt to some like trolling, as there was no way the intricate (and sometimes awkward) prog rock of Genesis might have a substantive pull on music so ostensibly moonless and monolithic. But Return to Annihilation is intrinsically elusive, with twists so compelling and layers so deep that each listen reveals a half-dozen new facets. The title track, for instance, is a three-part suite. Locrian begins with the primal, repetitive wallop of Swans, repurposed with industrial accessories. Despite the aggressive delivery, it feels tunefully poppy, beckoning the listener forward just before the song shifts into a cataclysmic drone. Smothering electronics battle with piercing guitars, shaping a stalemate of willpowers. Hess’ drums goad the band forward again, hitting a climax that’s dense but buoyant, like the phosphorescent coda of a melodramatic post-millenial black metal epic. Though this is a triptych of distinct sections, the parts are strangely cohesive, blending into one another as a balance of extremes.
For 50 minutes, Return to Annihilation runs like a whirlwind journey that you must mentally revisit when it’s done playing. Indeed, during the last three months, I’ve listened to this record a few dozen times, and each trip through only seems to solicit more questions about the material itself-- about its balance between corroded metal and coruscated drone, about its strange sense of enveloping atmosphere and unstoppable propulsion, about the completed puzzle and its complex constituent pieces. Sometimes its 15-minute closer, “Obsolete Elegies”, feels like an exhalation of relief, with muted piano and long-tone violin suggesting Pelt plundering the workshop of La Monte Young; other times, the quaking electronics and plodding guitar of the same piece intimate a hangman’s anthem, a steady gaze directed over and over again toward another imminent death.
What’s most rewarding about Return to Annihilation is this sense of narrative and emotional limbo, or the feeling that supposedly staunch binaries-- birth and death, beauty and brutality, triumph and defeat-- function exclusively in interrelated arcs. Sure, there are entire tracks here that feel more nihilistic or uplifting than others. The neon guitars and escalating drum patterns of “Eternal Return” are exultant enough to soundtrack an action movie’s climax, while “Exiting the Hall of Vapor and Light” fashions a great, gray canvas from static and distortion, a diorama of nothingness. But in every instance, defeat and relief seem only to be dissolving through one another, not pushing one another from the frame. The guitars in “Vapor and Light” slink into patterns that don’t resolve, but for an instant, they bubble into the sort of ebullient loop that you might hear on a Dustin Wong record; it’s like glimpsing light at the end of a tunnel that’s so big you didn’t even know you were surrounded. And “Eternal Return” takes shape around bitterly shouted imprecations and swells of background noise so strong they sometimes threaten to push the ascension off track. Return to Annihilation forever demands that you decide for yourself-- or, of course, don’t.
In the past, Locrian albums have seemed to me almost uniformly doomed, with their lyrics about industrial decay and blizzards of irascible tones creating an atmosphere of general oppression. But Return to Annihilation implicitly urged me to revisit those earlier records and to listen for, if not foreshadowing, signs that there’d been more ambiguity and complexity at work than I’d first supposed. And there is: The great Drenched Lands seems more forgiving than I’d perceievd, as if its excoriation of society is more of a way out than a mere self-excommunication. Moments of The Clearing, particularly the electrostatically foreboding “Coprolite”, sound in retrospect as if they are trying to climb out of the dark, even if they don’t succeed. Return to Annihilation, then, feels like a perfect nexus of Locrian’s past and future. This is the rare album that reveals new depth within a catalog that already seemed so deep and ruminative while proclaiming rather unlimited possibilities for a band nearing the end of its first decade. It’s a beginning refashioned from expired endings-- as it turns out, an essential Locrian idea.
André Foisy (guitar)
Terence Hannum (keyboards/vocals)
Steven Hess (drums/electronics)
01 Eternal Return
02 A Visitation From the Wrath of Heaven
03 Two Moons
04 Return to Annihilation
05 Exiting the Hall of Vapor and Light
06 Panorama of Mirrors
07 Obsolete Elegies