Calligram – Position | Momentum Review

With debut The Eye Is the First Circle, Calligram accomplished something rare. While kneeling in the second-wave shadow and drawing comparisons to the blackened hardcore laundry list, they nonetheless immediately established a sound all their own. Riding the razor’s edge between icy black metal and irascible d-beat-laden punk, with a fist of concrete and a demon at the mic, it is all in service to an ominous and crescendoing dread that courses through every movement. While the style stereotypically offers violence as its main attraction, manic blastbeats and anarchic punk hurtling with reckless abandon, Calligram’s approach instead highlights songwriting itself in a unique blend of the indomitably vicious and puzzlingly atmospheric. Three years after their formidable debut, Position | Momentum cements the London-based international group as a stalwart meditator in a black ocean of aggressors.

While The Eye featured as many ideas as the many heads of a hydra, Position | Momentum streamlines them into a more focused beast. Expect second-wave tropes in tremolo, blastbeats, and vocalist Matteo Rizzardo’s ferocious shrieks (in his native Italian), but like Calligram’s catalog, the sophomore effort ascends beyond the Darkthrone and Mayhem worshipers of the cold dead world. Toning down the two-ton sludge that pervaded songs like “Serpe” and “Kenosis,” the atmospheric dread is on full display in a melodic approach that toes the line between menace and melancholy with seamless ease. Calligram proves they are still at the top of their game, weaponizing trademark dueling guitar licks and shifting tempos for maximum blackened grimness and punkish furor with a tasteful flare of experimentation. All this while granting glimpses behind the pitch-black curtain. The result is undeniably Calligram in all its stirring minimalism.

Position | Momentum focuses on Bruno Polotto and Tim Desbos’ guitar licks, with tracks like “Sul Dolore” accomplishing a stark beauty in a shattered mirror with all the jagged pieces, while “Frantumi in Itinere” slows things to a menacing crawl. The plucking dances upon the floors of furious, horrific, beautiful, and dissonant, but there’s always a sturdy foundation to stand upon, so Calligram’s other elements are remarkably fluid. While minimalistic in nature, enacting mainly black metal and punk, it’s paradoxically more accessible and also impenetrable. The Eye is the First Circle breathed in and out in vast and organic compositions, but here tracks like “Eschilo” and “Tebe” are dense and claustrophobic in relentlessly cold tremolos and punishing d-beats, allowing manic overlays, morose plucking, and bleak doom passages final breaths in last rites. Notwithstanding the more experimental elements, the mercilessness that pervades the first half is worthy of a standing ovation alone.

After the ominous and desperately sad interlude “Per Jamie,” the centerpiece and album climax of one-two punch “Ostranenie” and “Ex-Sistere” begins; vicious odes to desperation, seamlessly shapeshifting from ripping blastbeats to driving punk beats, before the former’s Miles Davis-esque passage of drawling trumpet and dissonant plucking, only to crash into the ears with another round of blistering intensity. It feels that Position | Momentum’s first act is coldly calculated to the last detail, then Calligram flies off the rails for its back half, enacting a tastefully unhinged recklessness. This culminates with closer “Seminari Dieci,” a somber eulogy with a roar of pain, a doomy crescendo to frantic punk beats and scathing tremolo. A bass-led dirge and passages of sanguine plucking build to the devastatingly dense ending, as the instrumentals collide into an overwhelming roar – Calligram shows its heart before suffocating in the swells.

In spite of its icier and more spacious feel, Position | Momentum is a far more claustrophobic beast than The Eye is the First Circle. Calligram has toned down its sludge influences which may alienate some listeners, but their sophomore full-length feels more concise and focused in its songwriting. With a minimalist palette guiding the abuse, it feels lonelier and more hostile – a testament to the quintet’s bulletproof songwriting. While comparisons to Young and In the Way, Oathbreaker, and Celeste are fair, and Position | Momentum changes up the approach ever so slightly, it is undeniably the ominous and dread-inducing Calligram we know and love – cementing them as one of the most exciting acts in black metal today.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: Prosthetic Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: July 14th, 2023

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