Austrian black metal band Kringa has been lurking in the shadows since 2009, putting out demos and EP’s for almost a decade before releasing their first full length Feast Upon the Gleam in 2019. That album showcased a band that captured the coldness and aggression listeners would expect from the genre, but other influences from punk and beyond were already seeping in and giving off a different sound. Three years later, the group dropped their sophomore effort All Stillborn Fires, Lick My Heart! only a few days before 2022 came to an end, and it expands upon these elements while offering an even wilder and unpredictable experience. Pulling in some of the somber and darker tones of deathrock and post punk while retaining the core fire and spirit of black metal, this is a stunning effort that has both immediate appeal and nuances to be discovered across repeat listens.
Opener “Across the Firmament, Stride!” makes it clear that despite their experimentation, Kringa is still a black metal band at their core. Listeners are met with layers of abrasive guitar and lumbering bass that is appropriately raw, feeling a bit like Mare or some of the other Nidrosian black metal bands at certain points. But a few minutes in, the layers are peeled back in favor of softer yet still ominous riffing that lets the atmosphere build methodically until the final passage launches back into all-out violence. There’s a fluidity to Kringa’s writing that makes their material so exciting to listen to, as more traditional black metal elements often give way to somber post punk, deathrock, and everything in between but transition unexpectedly and sometimes the way the songs progress catch you off guard. At times I was reminded of the type of wild, free-flowing writing that One Tail, One Head had to offer, but run through a noticeably different set of genre influences. Things feel more violent and chaotic compared to Feast Upon the Gleam, and the frantic nature of the instrumentation often comes across like its on the verge of collapse, yet there are still specific riffs that will jump out at you and urge you to explore further. Songs like “Labyrinth Heirs” lash out at you with harsh guitars and jagged bass lines but have hints of psychedelia and deathrock’s doom and gloom underneath the violence, proving to be downright infectious at times. Admittedly with many of the tracks on the second half pushing into the seven- and eight-minute marks, there are a few passages that overstay their welcome, but this doesn’t dull the impact that much overall.
The vocals are one of the most significant elements that separates Kringa from many of the other black metal bands out there, as they don’t just stick with the tried and true screams and growls and instead incorporate a lot of cleaner ranges. “Across the Firmament, Stride!” starts off with much harsher high-pitched shrieks, but around the halfway point the performance switches to a mix of chants and howls that come through sounding downright unhinged. There’s a similar unpredictable nature to the vocal performance, as you’re never sure just what you’re going to hear on any particular track. “Gardens in Bloom” brings in some roars that sound like Jaz Coleman from Killing Joke, while the end of “Labyrinth Heirs” wouldn’t sound out of place on a number of English or Irish post punk albums. Some of the singing and chanting has a rougher, unpolished feel to it which could prove to be an acquired taste, but I felt it fit the fluidity of the material as the members pushed their vocals towards any direction they saw fit.
A few moments on the second half do drag as the song lengths sprawl outwards, but Kringa’s sophomore effort is still a wild ride that will have you peeling yourself off the wall and going for another spin afterwards. The exploration of post punk and deathrock’s darker tones are woven into chaotic and unhinged black metal that feels like it could implode any second, and even with that being the case there are still plenty of moments that stand out upon repeat listens. It’s clear that Kringa both captures the essence of black metal and are on their own path, making them another incredible band in the Terratur Possessions roster.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg