There are times when, despite all my leanings toward music that is avant garde, highly progressive, or material that is truly unique & done something different, there are also times when I just want something to pound me over the head. Not literally, of course, but since my favorite style of music is thrash metal, as a young lad it was only a matter of time before I became interested in what became the logical progression of the more extreme forms of thrash: death metal. I got heavily into the style of death metal in my mid-late teens, and continued to be interested in the genre through to today. While I go through times where I don't listen to as much death metal, it's still a style I hold in high regard due to the skill required to play it, the absolute pummeling sound that many bands of this style create, and the sheer dedication to the genre that many of it's stalwart artists have shown.
So while I don't pull out Bolt Thrower's "Warmaster" or Carcass' "Heartwork" on a daily basis, I love me some death metal, especially when it's done right. What I mean by that is this: death metal is best when it includes all the elements that makes the genre great. I'm talking about punishing riffs, good solos here and there, fast & furious drumming, vocals that sound like they're coming from the depths of some dark place, and enough melody to allow those pummeling riffs to grab you by the throat & shake you vigorously until you've had enough. Then, if it's really good death metal, they shake you some more.
KRIG is one of those bands that has a nice balance of the various elements. This band knows how to go full-steam ahead when it makes sense, when to slow it down to allow the riffs (& the listener) to breathe, when to just be brutal & pummeling, and when to make things a bit more technical to create interest & keep things fresh. Vocally, this band belongs to the "guttural" camp, with low growling vocals that come more from the Luke Renno (Crimson Thorn) school of vocals than the higher pitched Jeff Walker (Carcass) style. There are some nice spots here & there where some cool vocal layering is thrown in, to great effect. Some of it is "doubling" where the same vocal track is overlayed on top of itself (like in "Dilacerated"), and other times there are varied vocals that sound great layered together. Of course, all this low-end growling makes the lyrics difficult to discern, but that is usually not an issue for fans of the genre - we are used to it! In other words, Daniell Corpse does a great job keeping it vocally interesting without straying too far from the death metal formula.
In terms of the guitar sound, this stuff is somewhat downtuned, but that's typical for much death metal - the deeper the tones, the crunchier and more "meaty" the sound. The guitar sound here is crunchy and dirty without sounding muddy, but retaining the level of heaviness and brutality that listeners expect. There isn't a ton of solo work here, just bits sprinkled in here & there. What is here is competent, though not overwhelming or flashy. "Not Being Hypocrite" is a good example of this, as it has some basic solo work, but it's there more for effect than to be showy or display copious amounts of lead playing skill. KRIG follows the Bolt Thrower school of lead guitar - just enough to say it's there, but not enough to detract from the riffs-a-plenty. I also like how there are moments here and there where the riffs stop charging at you and take interesting left turns into technicality and sometimes dissonance. It keeps things interesting, and allows for the more pummeling or melodic sections to have something else to balance them out. The intro to "Mankind Dead Dreams" made me forget I was listening to KRIG for a moment, and I thought perhaps I was listening to Sympathy due to the interesting harmonic sound and technical nature of the riff. The echoed solo work there really stands out as well. Overall, Isaque Soares does a great job of including nearly all the elements a fan of death metal could want in a modern album.
Bass guitar is here, though as with much death metal, doesn't stand out quite as much. However, in some tracks, like "End of Time", the bass is made more prominent either through a short solo, or by doing something different enough from the main riff to keep it from completely blending into the background. Bass work by "Jully" is competent and quality throughout, however. Drum work is also quite good, a nice blending of hyper fast beats, groove-laden work, and semi-technical beats showing the versatility of drummer Vinicious Soares. He really does a great job without showing off too much, and allows the guitar sound to dominate without being too far in the background. The production of course aids in this, but his playing is not so flashy or over the top that it overshadows the guitar either, which is a must in straight-up death metal.
My primary criticism of the album is that on a couple tracks (most noticeably "Hideout of Demons"), it seems as though the "fade out" at the end isn't well thought out, and the songs end somewhat abruptly, but not in a very logical spot. This is more a production issue I suspect, and something that the band will likely work out on future albums. Overall, this is a high-quality slab of death metal, sure to please fans of the genre new and old. It has enough nod to the origins of the genre to be a treat for long-time fans of the style, but also includes enough more modern elements to keep even the most "new school" fan pleased. I suspect that fans of Suffocation and Impending Doom alike will find something here to like, if not love, and the fact that this album rides that line so well is a testament to the band's versatility. If you're at all a fan of death metal and are looking for a great record to punish your ears (or your parents' ears) to, you can do no wrong with "Narcissistic Mechanism". Recommended.
Here's the companion video review: