Author & Punisher – Krüller Review

Author and Punisher albums seem to alternate between anthemic and ambitious. Women & Children saw Tristan Shone’s transhumanist industrial drone-doom project spinning out singles with the force of a hundred pound steel drum,1 an approach echoed by 2018’s belligerent Beastland. But between them, the disturbing, experimental Melk en Honing took a slower, nastier pace, savoring the acrid stench of electrocuted machine-oil that the music produces. So does Krüller, Shone’s densest work yet. Though it feeds on reactionary fantasies of societal breakdown, Krüller rebukes isolation and cruelty, strengthened not by Shone’s singular vision but by the contributions of many collaborators and references to unexpected influences.

As Author & Punisher has before, Krüller brings alienating instrumentation and unconventional sounds to the fore in slow-moving but captivating songs. Opening with “Drone Carrying Dread,” the record nods back to the slow anthems of Beastland, crawling into the open under almost pretty synths, with Shone singing at his cleanest. “Centurion” winds whining noise through industrial percussion in its verses while Tool’s Justin Chancellor delivers terse and brooding bass lines, erupting in clanging, roaring choruses. Much of the added density in these songs comes courtesy of producer/collaborator Jason Begin, whose jittering breakcore meltdown “Blacksmith” is an unlikely late-album highlight. “Centurion” and the dynamic “Incinerator” demonstrate how well repetition and slow development work for the band.

But when Shone insists on slowly developing an undercooked idea, the result is downright exhausting. “Maiden Star” wraps its composition around delicate and abstract vocal phrasings that are almost shockingly directionless compared to the inexorable crawl of the usual Author & Punisher material. It’s a mess of odd tempo and rhythmic shifts that would take quite a charismatic singer to carry, and Shone’s cleans vocals sound particularly strained and thin as he forces himself to the top of his range. It’s cool that Shone wanted to do a track with is wife (Marilia Maschion), about navigating difficulties with a partner—it just could have gone a lot better.

Just after the awkward “Maiden Star,” Krüller’s B-side nearly sweeps away the missteps of the first half. “Misery” returns Shone to proper shouts and groans, opening with a trip-hop beat courtesy of Danny Carey (also Tool)2. The record’s shortest track, “Misery” is also one of its most successful, slamming through a heavy chugging riff into a surprising melodic resolution. It’s songs like this that make Author & Punisher releases so exciting; Shone not only incorporates a new influence into his style but cements it as a highlight of his catalog. Just after, there’s another. In opposition to the shy and understated original, the Author & Punisher cover of Portishead’s “Glorybox” is anthemic. Yet it’s a beautiful adaptation and true to the song’s intimacy; hearing Shone croon the chorus is arresting.

Though it’s not as anthemic or energetic as Beastland, Krüller should leave any Author & Punisher fan satisfied. Shone’s collaborators turn in great performances that add a gargantuan depth to the record, and the back half is nearly as good as “Beastland.” Shone’s lyrics are more interesting than they’ve ever been, too; while past records were more abstract, Krüller is direct; reflecting with disgust on the American project as it salts its own stolen land. Krüller is as compelling an artistic response to the Covid pandemic as I’ve heard from metal, and a great accomplishment for Author & Punisher, proving that Shone is more than willing to reach out from his self-imposed cage of heavy electronics.


Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 225 kb/s VBR mp3
Label: Relapse Records
Websites: authorandpunisher.bandcamp.com | tristanshone.com | facebook.com/authorandpunisher
Releases Worldwide: February 11th, 2022

Show 2 footnotes

  1. He weighs a lot more than that! – Holdeneye
  2. Not a great association after he called that guy a slur at the airport, but it’s obvious why Shone would be excited to get the Tool rhythm section to guest for him.
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