It seems as if the late-2000s progressive deathcore scene is still strong, with stalwarts like Born of Osiris still putting out albums while newcomers like Shadow of Intent drop new and exciting explorations of the style. Perhaps it’s the years lost to the flash-in-the-pan djent experiments or the people playing the music simply growing older, but the oft-maligned microgenre seems to have become a bit more self-aware in the decade since its inception. And while gauged earlobes and squeaky-clean production die hard, good songwriting lasts forever. Do Krosis have what it takes to keep it moving forward?
Those allergic to breakdowns need not apply, as Solem Vatem can hardly stop producing them, whether alone or under delay-drenched leads. The strategy has worked in the past, and Veil of Maya and Born of Osiris spawned their own djent/prog/deathcore following because of it, but for the majority of heavy music listeners, it’s a mark against them. In a way, this approach to writing is a rearrangement of traditional metal guitar playing; thrash and heavy metal bands in the ’80s were adding virtuosic licks to their galloping riffs, an approach which would ultimately lead to mega-classics like Rust in Peace. Bands like Krosis turn this on its head, completely separating out their riffs into chugging hardcore rhythms and tapped or sweep-picked leads inspired by technical death metal and virtuosos like Tosin Abasi. As such, it’s no wonder that it rubs a lot of metalheads the wrong way – the riffs that we’ve come to expect just don’t make the required showing.
But what Solem Vatem requires isn’t more riffs, it’s a sense of direction. Along with their breakdowns, and collection of riffs that passes just below the stick-shakeable level, Krosis threw everything they could think of into this album: symphonic flourishes, Obscura-esque tech leads, buzzing synths, spoken word samples, and a trio of guest vocalists. Many of the passages from Solem Vatem are very successful, but they are combined largely at random. The band have put their effort into the album’s capacious vocabulary but not taught it syntax; meanings do not combine to form new meanings. Each moment is alone.
The promotional copy of Solem Vatem I received had both official tracklist data embedded and conflicting numbers in the track titles, so I tried the album both ways. I could barely make out the difference. Creating so little from so much, Solem Vatem takes a fifty-six-minute runtime to its limits. The senselessly complex topography the album carves through gives way to no landmarks and from any point within it seems all paths lead out over a distant horizon. You can get lost in a great album — but you can also get lost in one because it has no shape.
It takes just the right execution to make proggy deathcore worthwhile. There’s enough of the stuff out there by now that novelty alone isn’t going to win over fans — few people are willing to listen to the entirety of The New Reign anymore just to hear the middle thirty seconds of “Brace Legs.” As ever, songwriting matters more than any other single factor in musical success, and its absence in Solem Vatem made a talented band with a multifaceted sound completely fail to release a worthwhile album – or even worthwhile songs. Krosis‘ future depends on their ability to edit, not merely by cutting, but by pasting; building songs with intent and consideration rather than building them with mere enthusiasm. One might spend thousands of hours learning to sweep pick, perfecting blastbeat technique, tweaking synth settings — but at the end, capabilities as an artist will not improve merely by mastering one’s tools. You have to know what you want to say.