Author & Punisher holds a special place in my heart, and has done so since I first discovered the act few years back, in a live setting of all things. Seeing how the creative lunatic that Tristan Shone – the lone soul making up the band – is, by bringing everything alive through self-built machinery designed solely for the project, was an amazing experience. After ramming my way through the crowd like an asshole to see it closer, I knew there and then that this is something special. Lo and behold, I took a plunge down the good ol’ rabbit hole and obsessed over each of his releases for months on end, learning everything inside out, always equally pleased, perplexed, and amazed.
Back last year when the release of Krüller was announced, I got quite giddy. After all, its predecessor Beastland made huge waves in crossing scenes, and elevated the project’s notability quite a bit. According to the press release, this time we ought to be expecting something more melodic and even more abstract and spacious than before. I’m not gonna lie, that exact statement caused a certain eyebrow-elevation-movement in yours truly, as the main thing I had enjoyed about Author & Punisher so far was its sheer sonic violence and dark tones, without forgetting the experimental angle. After all, Author & Punisher represents to me one of the very, very few artists who could more or less just put out the same album after each one and it’d be just as good as the previous one. Still, I appreciate the fact that Shone’s ambitions surpass that oftentimes idiotic thought, which leads us to Krüller.
So, how different is it? Short answer: very. Long answer? Well, here we go.
The biggest change was obviously spoiled earlier on. Right from the opening seconds, Krüller separates itself from Author & Punisher‘s prior works quite a bit. “Drone Carrying Dread” flourishes in truly surprisingly warm tones and bubbly atmosphere, which hasn’t exactly been a staple or point of interest to the act before. You can hear subtle hints towards and similarities to some nuances on Beastland here and there, but it’s very clear that the beast has undergone a substantial shift in tone and appearance. The production is, of course, bonafide ear candy, just as it was before. But, at least on the opening colossus, that sort of an overarching dread and dismal mood that has dictated his output strongly so far isn’t here – not yet at least. Instead, the overall sound emphasizes an emotional and somewhat gaze-y delivery, which works despite being so out of the box. “Drone Carrying Dread” was also the first track released in advance, and created an ambiance of mixed feelings for a lot of people, or so it appeared to me at least.
Familiar tones start to seep in during “Incinerator”, and fully step into the forefront on “Centurion”, as the rhythmic hooks are plenty while the overall aesthetic takes a peek into the more abrasive, harsh, and corrosively cold world Author & Punisher is known for. The doom-tinged pacing showcases some guest personnel as well, of which there are plenty on Krüller. The likes of Justin Chancellor, Danny Karey, and Vytear make an appearance throughout the album to give it some additional flavour. The importance and/or value of guest and session musicians can be contemplated and contended from here to eternity, of course, but I personally think that as long as it works, serves the final product in a gimmick-free fashion, and doesn’t steer the focus away from the actual artist, it’s all good and groovy.
Speaking of groovy, the following track “Maiden Star” certainly doesn’t demonstrate that angle. Instead, it leads with haunting, synth-esque walls of sound and heavy bass frequency beating, kicking you in the face with some unexpected changes in pacing and time signatures. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t warm up to this track during its initial release that much, as I was probably throwing a tantrum about how the inevitable change isn’t healthy and all that, which I mentioned above. But in the context of the album, “Maiden Star” works wonders. It was a strange pick to present as an isolated piece, solely because of how strange of a track it is for Author & Punisher, but I admire the man-balls it took to make that call and lead with the odd ones out of the bunch. I don’t think the song presents the best Krüller has to offer, but that doesn’t take away from its pummeling and wickedly soothing value.
The following tracks “Misery” and “Glorybox” direct the atmosphere back into more interesting realms, the former being an interestingly nuanced and dynamic effort including the performance of the aforementioned Danny Carey, creating a barrage of contrasts and juxtapositions together with potent drumming and other, more delicate instrumentation, while the latter is a Portishead cover, and a fucking discerning one as such, not because of its delivery but because of its chafing and rather anxious vibe. The pair provides some needed variety to the album’s spectrum before it reaches its culmination points, of which there are two, actually.
“Blacksmith” amps up the intensity to a great degree, and by its glitchy, EDM-ish sonic terror proves to be perhaps the most interesting song on Krüller, with the other non-single cuts following closely behind. This song in particular rejoices in a torturous and shiver-inducing mood, as the shattered percussions only further solidify its general agony. I understand the need to evolve, but I don’t know if it tells more about me or the artist in question that the most fascinating track is the one that’s most resemblant of his earlier doings. Not by its sound per se, but by its innovativeness, “Blacksmith” is truly a peak on Krüller. The titular closing track continues in a less in-your-face manner, but brings the album to a close in a way where the listener – myself included – is fulfilled. It does leave a thirst for more, which, all things considered, is obviously nothing short of a good sign.
Krüller is, mildly put, a contradictory experience. I can fathom the thought process behind pursuing something different, and Author & Punisher certainly pulls that off. However, some boxes are left unchecked, and I can equally understand how that might be a turn-off for someone looking to get a similar experience of explosions of torment out of it as with the few albums prior to it. Then again, I find myself existing somewhere in the middle. Krüller doesn’t offer an instant gratification, but I keep noticing how I’m further drawn to it with every passing listen. In spite of it being a new page in the act’s book, it is certainly a fresh one, and my willingness to get back to it day by day strengthens the notion that it’ll hold the test of time in an entirely new way, slowly unfolding and explaining itself as the world keeps going down the shithole it’s currently residing in, and we, as observers and listeners, try to make the most out of it and grow along the way.