Projections I by Headless KrossRelease date: November 18, 2016
Label: At War With False Noise
On their last outing, 2015’s Volumes, savage doomsters Headless Kross seemed intent on upping the psychedelic ante and taking their previously fairly straightforward sound somewhere new. The 20 minute ‘Rural Juror’ is easily the most out-there they’ve sounded to date, giving their often suffocating sound some much needed space and mixing their usual pummeling riff onslaught with passages of cosmic guitar trickery to create an effect not unlike being beaten delirious with a sack full of sandalwood incense and lava lamps.
On paper Projections I sounds like a further step down that road. Billed as the first in a trio of records, “whose fractured narrative examines this distorted yet strangely cyclical world we live in through equally distorted yet strangely cyclical psychedelic doom,” and utilising field recordings taken from around their native Glasgow it promises to be an interesting trip. But it doesn’t quite deliver. If anything it’s something of a back to basics record – while there’s still enough of a sense of space and weirdness to bring a slight psychedelic edge to proceedings the focus is now decidedly back on keeping it Doom.
Which needn’t be a bad thing; over the years they’ve grown into an intimidatingly heavy prospect. Tracks like ‘…Does Not Equal Time’ work on a simple principle, which should be hardwired into doom’s DNA, but many bands neglect – sometimes the most effective thing to do to is just grab a riff by its haunches and ride that beast hard until it breathes its last. Then get up, dust yourself off and prowl the plains looking for another one. It’s a stones throw from the vile sludge of Iron Monkey, a small step from the gnarled grooves of Church of Misery. While plenty play hard and long few quite manage hit the level of fanatical fervour that comes across in Headless Kross’ sound – if their press release claimed they lived inside a giant hollowed out orange amp and fed only on leaves and Electric Wizard LPs you’d be tempted to take it at face value.
In truth Headless Kross clearly are a bit more clever than that suggests – quoting father of General Semantics Alfred Korzybski for the title of ‘The Map is Not the Territory’ is a likely sign that a higher intelligence is at work. But given the monstrous noise contained therein it’s a bit like being beaten up by a better class of mugger. You’ve not got long to admire his smoking jacket before he sets upon you with a lead pipe and leaves you bleeding and confused in an alley. There may be some interesting lyrical nuggets contained here, but they’re shrieked at you in such a feral manner there’s no way of really knowing.
And there’s the rub. After suggesting they may have a few more tricks up their sleeve on Volumes and promising something more left-field in their press release it’s a little disappointing to have them doing naught but bludgeon throughout. The field recordings only really present themselves at the beginning of ‘Church of the Fifth Season’, and if you’re not paying attention you could easily mistake them for the obligatory horror movie sample intro doom bands seem contractually obliged to deliver. Even when they change things up on that track and get surprisingly melodic the melancholic guitar line is repeated so often it feels like they’re trying to etch it into your skull. It’s not that they aren’t good at this stuff – anyone looking for a fix of fiendishly sludgey doom is going to be very pleased with what they find here. But after pushing themselves to new heights with Volumes it’s frustrating to find them stepping back down to create Just Another Doom Record. Even if it is a pretty good one. Hopefully Projections II & III will see them experiment a little more and deliver on their promise.