There are a lot of connotations attached to the phrase “jaw-dropping.” I was watching America’s Got Talent1 the other day, and judge Alesha Dixon praises a contestant’s performance, saying “[her] jaw was literally on the floor.” Abuses of the phrase “literally” aside, as they were most likely not reenacting that one polar bear fight from The Golden Compass, the idea that your jaw falls off and lands on the floor because of sheer amazement sounds metal as fuck. I honed in on this phrase when reading up on the promo of Krosis‘ new album A Memoir of Free Will. Will what remains of my face be pouring blood while my tongue wags madly in the wind or will my jaw remain cynically connected to my skull?
Krosis is a progressive deathcore band from North Carolina, A Memoir of Free Will being their second full-length. I’m not sure what progressive really entails, as the label has been used to describe anything from the djenty chuggaboundabounboundaluggs of Structures or Volumes, to the transcendental offerings of Slice the Cake or Kardashev. Like Born of Osiris or, like, Born of Osiris. What we’ve got with Krosis lies somewhere in between, relying on bright cosmic Oceana-esque ambient textures, djenty chugs aplenty a la After the Burial, a touch of the wankery of Rings of Saturn, all tied up with the relentless attitude of early Whitechapel. Sporting an extremely talented lineup with impressive guitar, bass, percussion, and vocals appropriately highlighted, it’s an album packed to the brim with ideas. While more often than not its ambition gets the better of it, A Memoir of Free Will is a fun and promising listen if you need a deathcore fix.
The best tracks that Krosis has to offer revel in authenticity and patient songwriting. Cuts like opener “Gone, but Not Forgotten” and “With Virtue, I am Free” recall Vildhjarta in their seamlessly precise fusion of overwhelmingly djenty riffs with transitions into the crystalline, cosmic atmosphere. Meanwhile, “Psychoticlysm” and “Battles Are Won Within” are refreshingly straightforward in their brutality, offering ruthless deathcore riffs and breakdowns with ambiance as texture. “Questions of a Holistic Divine” is especially standout, as its instrumental palette morphs from deathcore brutality to ambiance to fucking jazzy saxophone, feeling truly progressive as it twists from passage to passage. The band’s use of technical solos and pinch harmonics is also noteworthy, sparingly utilized as tasty flourishes between their shredding riffs or breakdowns, and bass stands out as a formidable Abiotic-esque addition, noodling seamlessly beneath.
In truth, much of A Memoir of Free Will feels like a Betraying the Martyrs album. It has all the right stuff in fantastic technicality, dope-ass vocals, and a ton of progressive ideas, but there’s just too much all at once: a dense smattering of various ideas rather than a clean execution. While tracks like “Questions of a Holistic Divine” and “With Virtue, I Am Free” are exercises in organic songwriting, others often fall short because they try to cram as many djenty riffs, keyboard melodies, shredding technicality, manic drumming, and brutal vocals as possible. Following the opener, the next three tracks are disappointingly directionless, save for a few neat riffs and solid vocals, spinning their wheels with djenty riffs haphazardly interspersed with ambient passages. While the jarring shifts can be powerful (see “With Virtue, I Am Free”), the three tracks implementing the same loud to soft to loud to soft dynamic2 feels tiring over its overlong course and the tracks end up feeling too similar. The closing title track also tries to continue what “Questions of a Holistic Divine” did in its sprawling structure, but its use of blistering brutality feels impatient instead of climactic.
I understand Krosis is its own beast, but I found myself comparing A Memoir of Free Will to all the aforementioned influences while listening and, though it has its moments, it ends up feeling too overstuffed and derivative to make an impact. Each member is insanely talented, from the rhythms, the technicality, the versatility of the vocals, and the atmosphere, but the album ultimately feels underwritten. There’s too much going on, and it sounds like a the product of a wild night between Vildhjarta, Betraying the Martyrs, and Whitechapel, however you choose to interpret that. While Krosis‘ promise is undeniable, they also have a bit to work on. With A Memoir of Free Will, consider my jaw only partially unhinged.