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Wretched Wisdom: A WOBC Interview With Mick Barr of Krallice

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With an all-star (and fully original) lineup that counts among its ranks multi-instrumentalist and producer Colin Marston (Gorguts, Dysrhythmia, Behold The Arctopus, etc), ever-busy bassist Nick McMaster (Geryon, Gath Smane, ex-Castevet), endurant skinsman Lev Weinstein (Geryon, Bloody Panda), and outre solo guitarist Mick Barr (Octis, Ocrilim, Crom-Tech), New York’s Krallice are nearly a supergroup at this point. The USBM pioneers have always possessed a single-minded drive for the experimental, drawing from yet ultimately eschewing both the riff-heavy paradigms established by the Scandinavian black metal progenitors and the occult dissonance of newer European BM. This approach is manifest in Krallice’s preoccupations with texture, atmosphere, and spontaneity, and it’s one that’s rendered the band controversial in the eyes of black metal traditionalists. But whatever your opinions may be about Krallice’s music, you can’t deny that it’s something different, and it’s only become more so over the last few years. The band’s last album, 2012’s Years Past Matter, saw the band traveling further outside the realm of BM conventions, incorporating clean guitars and a notable increase in aggression. WOBC Metal recently spoke to guitarist Mick Barr, who touched on some of the background of the group as well as on Krallice’s current pursuits and future plans.

It’s been almost 7 years since the first Krallice record came out. What do you think has changed most about your sound since then?

Our lives have evolved, and our brains and music must follow suit. However, our working methods haven’t changed much. We still write music using roughly the same methods; one of the 3 songwriters will bring forth a skeleton, and all 4 of us will write to it. We still practice and record at Colin’s studio Menegroth. We still have roughly the same gear. Writing-wise, we have been allowing more of our personal styles to rear their heads in our music: more death metal, more technicality, less repetitive black metal structuring. And I suppose the biggest change since the first album is Nick McMaster no longer just does “additional vocals”…

You all juggle a number of different side projects. Is Krallice your collective first priority? 

It seems like first priority usually goes to the band/project that books the individual member’s time the furthest in advance. This band is very important to all of us, but we aren’t the type of people to limit ourselves to one particular priority. Music is our first priority, and it takes many forms. And i don’t think any of us views anything we do as a “side-project”. However, Krallice is my personal first priority as far as “bands” I’m in. But I’m in way less bands than the other 3 members in Krallice, so I sometimes lament the lack of prioritization while we discuss scheduling.

One thing I find striking about your records is the sonic clarity that you achieve. How does this translate to a live setting? Does anything get lost? 

It seems to translate alright I guess. I strive to not worry much about live sound, as it seems to be a losing battle. I’m sure many things get lost, but many other things get found in the live setting. Things that might have been a bit clouded in the recording might ring louder. Also, how riffs are played evolve over time, which only gets a chance to be shown while being performed.

Krallice – |||||| / |||||||||

I’ve read in other interviews that Diotima had strong conceptual underpinnings, whereas Years Past Matter forsook this in favor of “just present[ing] the music rather than wrapping it in a bunch of cultural references.” Why the shift? Do you plan on returning to conceptual-based works for future releases, or are you leaning more towards sticking to the more recent style of Years Past Matter

That seems like a Nick quote, though I think he was referring to the fact that we didn’t have song titles on YPM, or print the lyrics in the CD. He and Lev definitely had some conceptual themes going with Diotima, but there was no over-arching theme. And my lyrics on that record surely didn’t follow any concept, other than the usual concepts that tend to present themselves while I’m writing words. I’m not overly in favor of concepts, or intention as a whole. I always like to let the music stand, or sit. Whatever it wants to do…

How does playing black metal compare to playing other types of metal as a creative/expressive/emotional experience?

Not sure, as I haven’t really played in any other traditional metal bands. At least not as an adult. I went from beginners thrash at 14, to experimental hardcore, to Crom-Tech, to Orthrelm, to my solo projects Octis and Ocrilim, to Krallice, to improv, to chamber music.

Ocrilim Live

Your solo guitar projects are rather removed from Krallice, but there are still some undeniable similarities. How would you say your riff-writing process differs between solo and group environments? 

The solo stuff definitely has a broader history and has been through many alterations over the year, but it also has a freer space to exist. And not taking anything or anyone else into account definitely lends itself to a quicker creation. However I think both group and solo material stems from roughly the same headspace, at least in the past 10 years or so. Just certain riffs call for more, other riffs call for less.

Are there any releases that all the members of Krallice find particularly influential? In a broader sense, I’m curious in knowing what you consider to be the uniting factor (musically or otherwise) between each of your members’ musical styles.

There are tons of records we all like. Not sure that i can list much, but I know we all like Immolation a lot. In the past the Ulver album Nattens Madrigal has come up a lot, but I probably haven’t listened to that album once in the years since our first album came out. But you know, the usual classics like Slayer, Enslaved, Gorguts, Immortal, Kreator, Suffocation, Voivod, Absu, Nile, Overkill…

Ulver – Nattens Madrigal

Do you ever (as a group or as an individual) consciously seek to emulate certain artists or sounds? 

I suppose it has happened, but I’m not very proud of it. We had a song on Diotima that was somewhat of a tribute to the band Drudkh, though I don’t think we credited it that way in the liner notes. While we map out drums for new songs, we have a library of different beats we reference: the Suffocation blast, the Darkthrone blast, etc… I think emulation can lead to new ideas, but I personally don’t like it to be an end goal. Sometimes while I’m working on riffs alone, I’ll try out certain things I’ve heard, certain feels or tricks. But I try to filter it out by obscuring the obvious references.

Do you keep up with current music, metal or otherwise? If so, what artists in particular are you keeping an eye on?

I used to be better at that, but recently it’s been exhausting following modern metal. Whenever a band I like releases something new, I’ll check it out, but then immediately return to their older works that I know and love. And that’s not saying that there isn’t good stuff being released, because I think there is a lot of quality material coming out. I’m just burnt out on checking out new stuff. I blame information overload. that being said, I love what my bandmates are doing outside Krallice these days with Geryon and Indricothere; I love recent Darkthrone and Bastard Noise releases, recent Graveland releases have had incredible drumming, the last Incantation album, the Crepusculo Negro scene, my cousin Gary’s band Sea of Bones, Persian vocalist Bahar Movahed, and I still follow Wu-Tang-related underground hip-hop like Bronze Nazareth and the Wisemen. RIP Kevlaar 7.

Bronze Nazareth & Kevlaar 7 – “Worship”

How do you feel about the accusations of pretension and/or elitism that have been leveled at Krallice over the years?

“The voice of the coward has never before been so loud”. It’s been fairly funny, annoying, and a bit misguided. we all come from deep metal backgrounds, and play music from the heart. But we are all open minded about life and music. Metal is my first love, the first music to really inspire me to want to make music myself. But I’ve personally never identified as a hard-partying, uniform-wearing, die-hard headbanger. For that matter, I’ve never identified as anything other than myself. And caring about what anyone else thinks has never been a priority. Fuck the metal police.

And of course – what can we expect from Krallice in the future, both in the long-term and in the  short-term?

Short-term: steadily writing our 5th album. We plan to restart our online merch table, re-release the old records on cassette, probably play some shows around NYC. Long-term: no idea. I’d love to tour the West Coast and the South. Probably make a 6th album at some point. The ground is the limit.


Questions by Gil Young & Mark M-R