Like water skiing or reading Thomas Pynchon, post metal is something I enjoy but don’t partake in very often. While I’ve enjoyed some Pelican, Isis, and Light Bearer in my day, often the genre’s huge soundscapes and slow-burning buildups are simply too demanding for me to enjoy on a regular basis. On 2014’s debut Omonoia, Greek quintet Allochiria seemed to fit largely in this same mold. Drawing comparisons to the sludgy expanse of Year of No Light, a cursory listen revealed a layered, cerebral album whose dystopian atmosphere was delivered via a measured, methodical pace. Throes, however, is a much different beast — and one I think I’ll be spinning far more often.
Unlike the simmering instrumentation of so much other post metal, Throes is an immediate, riffy, and aggressive record. Opener “Thrust” demonstrates this from the outset, beginning with a humming ambiance before striking with a set of dissonant, alternating chords that build tension like piano wire being stretched to its breaking point. The track then flows through a piercing climax that recalls Départe or Altar of Plagues, to an interlude dominated by a rolling drumbeat and watery clean picking, before finishing with vast melodic leads which wail from the background like air sirens over a post-apocalyptic wasteland. It’s an excellent song, and the fact that these ideas are skillfully worked together in a seven-minute runtime is a testament to Allochiria’s songwriting prowess.
Not unlike Cult of Luna’s quicker moments, this is music which is active and constantly morphing, lurching forward with desperate purpose and the looming weight of imminent collapse. This vibe is conveyed through the skin-peeling rasps of vocalist Irene P., whose performance recalls a more guttural version of blackened-crust acts like Iskra or Black September. The layered and dramatic guitars on tracks like “Little Defeats, Tiny Victories” and “Counting Fives” are punctuated by smooth leads which alternately twirl with odd melodies and ring with the desperation of a man taking his dying breath, exploding into pummeling chords at just the right moments. And in terms of astounding guitar-work, this is just the tip of the iceberg: see mid-album highlight “Cracking Fractals,” which resonates with an Ahab-esque melody that unfurls like a distant wildfire at midnight, before finishing with a series of tussling intervals.
As this is a post-metal record, there’s plenty of Isisy interludes with lonely basslines and echoing clean notes, but it’s the dichotomy between the atmosphere of these moodier sections and the churning violence of the heavier sections which makes Throes such a win. Sound-wise the guitars are clear and sharp, the bass is pulpy and distinct, and the leads echo with impossible vastness. Flourished with subtle electronic segues, the mix conveys a massive scope while maintaining an in-your-face immediacy, featuring drums that are snappy, loaded with reverb, and loud – maybe a little too much so, in fact. Nevertheless, Throes’ only other flaw is that, after the extended build and blurry delay-pedal melodies of fourth track “Lifespotting,” the final two songs really don’t add many new tricks to the hat. While aforementioned “Fives” finishes with some distant female choirs and closer “Denouement” offers some gothic character in its guitars, it still feels like the album is missing a big twist or massive climax in its final third.
Fortunately, with a 45-minute runtime and a 7-minute average track length, these six songs are concise and engaging, moving deliberately and fluidly from one idea to the next without lingering too long or exhaustively relishing in their own atmosphere. In all, Throes represents my favorite kind of record: one that’s utterly evocative in its mood while still delivering ideas that play in my head long after the final cymbal crashes and snare hits fade to silence. Allochiria have produced something truly special here, an album wrought with constricting emotion and burning resolve, an album that hits all the great post-metal tropes while skillfully avoiding the genre’s long-windedness. This is something you won’t soon forget.