“Black metal, noise, krautrock, post-rock and something else, but none of the above at the same time,” wrote Alex Franquelli about Locrian’s previous record Return to Annihilation. These words ring truer than ever on Infinite Dissolution, a record that eschews categorization and shows the Chicago/Baltimore trio carrying their sound into unexplored and inexplicable structures, bringing together disparate worlds, and moving even farther away from the slow ambient noise and drone that marked the first, hyper-productive part of their career.
There’s a haunting, nearly imperceptible beauty hidden within Locrian’s dystopian philosophical and metaphysical contemplations. This ambiguous feeling takes hold as soon as the listener’s gaze lands upon the unnerving but awe-inspiring cover, a depiction of David Altmejd’s sculpture The Eye, and that feeling runs through each note on Infinite Dissolution. Indeed, Locrian revisit themes they’ve entertained since their own inception – annihilation, loss of self, death, and the ultimate demise of humanity, without ever taking the easier, nihilistic, or doomsaying path. Instead, they indulge in a meditative, bittersweet acceptance of one of the few certainties in the universe: everything ends. It’s this central theme that carries the music and enables a narrative in which elements of black metal, noise, psychedelia, electronica, and post-rock are used as brushes in a greater scope, as means to an end. The narrative might be linear and with a clear outcome, but the meandering voyage makes it feel uncertain.
An interesting contrast arises from the bleakness of the motifs Locrian explores and the moods evoked through sharp figures and warm sonic stimuli. Their recent superficially melodic, rhythmic, and (relatively) accessible style hints at hope and resolution, but it’s constantly confronted with barren, desolate lyrics. While vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Terrence Hannum screams “Chain of Being / Desiccated / A Hymn to the Deluge” on “Arc of Extinction,” his voice lost, buried, and swept away by the lush wall of noise, guitarist André Foisy lays a guitar lead that breaks through the thick fog of synths like a ray of light through stormy clouds. But the light is mere illusion, with only the darkness left beneath it all. This mirage makes the music both concrete and elusive, reliant on volatile, mercurial sounds reflected in an infinite crystal, refracting in many ways and directions, ultimately making focus and attention impossible.
Musically speaking, Infinite Dissolution’s genesis can clearly be traced to Return to Annihilation, but it also inspires a more complete, fulfilling experience. From the tension-building electronic noises and drum thumps, black metal tremolos, and a permeating sense of redemption on the opener “Arc of Extinction,” over the centerpieces of the record, the anthemic three-parter “The Index of Air” and the almost optimistic “The Great Dying,” right until the withering, hollow closing notes of “KXL III,” there’s always an impression of motion and progress in the music, where there was none before. Grandiose, oppressive and daunting – all of that, yet not really any of it. The destination is grim, the sound of curtains falling almost palpable with the only moment of “normalcy” and some semblance of respite coming through the ironically, oxymoronically titled “The Future of Death.”
Acting not just as musicians, Terrence Hannum, André Foisy, and Steven Hess appear to be master artists that paint and sculpt through means of pure sound, while music shattered into nine fragments, serves as canvas. Their layered voices, guitars, synths, and electronics all flow into one another in the midst of Greg Norman’s exquisite production and create a fragile and constantly changing soundscape that stirs emotions and projects ideas. Parts of Locrian’s sonic sculpture take form and reshape themselves in the observers’ minds, making the notion of two listens delivering the same experience nigh impossible.
Infinite Dissolution is thus a perfect representation of the savage beauty of random violence that the universe exerts upon humanity, a manifestation of our own cognitive dissonance when failing to grasp the unequivocal, apparently harsh and cruel, but ultimately neutral forces that affect us. We’re disappearing, we’re going extinct, and we’re serenely revelling in every moment.