Review & Track Premiere: I Klatus, Nagual Sun

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on September 11th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

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[Click play above to stream the premiere of ‘The Alivist’ from I Klatus’ new album, Nagual Sun, out Oct. 13.]

There are any number of stylistic impressions one might get throughout the 57 minutes of Nagual Sun, the fourth long-player from Chicago’s I Klatus (also written as I, Klatus). Most of them are thoroughly fucked. It is a potent brew of atmospheric sludge extremity the four-piece bring to their material for their first outing since 2013’s Kether (discussed here), and while one might hear shades of YOB or Zoroaster in opener “Beneath the Waves” or the later lumbering of “Jaws of the Shark,” there are deathly undertones through which I Klatus distinguish themselves and turn any colorful psychedelia into shades of brown and gray, their wash of noise by texturist Robert Bauwens part more of an assault than a landscape, despite being hypnotic in its own, bleak manner.

Led by guitarist/vocalist Tom Denney — also a noted illustrator/graphic designer — I Klatus dealt their last time out with the suicide of former bassist Tariq Ali, but here with drummer Chris Wozniak (also Lair of the Minotaur and Earthen Grave, among others) and bassist/clean-vocalist/producer John E. Bomher, Jr. (Yakuza), they might as well be mourning the passing of society as a whole with their postmodern screwall that pervades tracks like the blackened-leaning-but-still-early-Crowbar-catchy “Sorcerer’s Gaze” (video posted here) or the terrifyingly rolling “The Alivist,” which is the longest inclusion at 9:43 and plunges to depths all its own while also leaving space for stoner churn and post-High on Fire gallop. Though based in the Windy City, their sound has roots aesthetically in the same strikingly Midwestern, pill-popping Rust Belt disaffection that gave the world the likes of Fistula, Ultralord, Morbid Wizard and Sollubi, but none of those acts seem to be chasing or conjuring the same kinds of demons as I Klatus are and do on Nagual Sun, and so while aspects may be familiar, the ultimate downward course of the album belongs to Denney and company alone.

And make no mistake, they own it. From the feedback coating in which the launch of “Beneath the Waves” arrives to the deceptively intricate layering in the vocals and the vaguest touch of melody — which is, it’s worth noting outright, no less out of place here — that pervades closer “Final Communion,” I Klatus establish themselves as a litmus for how far sludge can be pushed in substance before it simply oozes down into its component pieces. To wit, even as Nagual Sun seems to revel in defeat after defeat, there’s something defiant about a song like “Moment of Devastation,” which explodes in death metal growls over spacious cosmic doom and shifts with surprising ease back and forth between that and almost minimalist stretches of nonetheless-tense drift. With its robot-effects clean vocals, blasts and so on, “Beneath the Waves” sets up a pretty broad context for the rest of the album to take place within, so as I Klatus bring what seems like experimental fruit to bear in “Serpent Cults,” “Sorcerer’s Gaze” and “Moment of Devastation,” they’ve allowed themselves the room to explore as they will.

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Part of that is a palpable sense of not giving a shit about sticking to genre, from which the songs also benefit, but while Nagual Sun willfully borders on unmanageably long, there are enough shifts throughout to hold the listener’s attention or at very least give them enough of a consciousness-pummeling to render them immobile for the duration. But it is a slog, and clearly intended to be one as “The Alivist,” “Jaws of the Shark” and “Final Communion” — even with the two-minute “Father John Thomas (The Penitent)” set as a penultimate interlude — all top eight minutes long and give a sense that as it plods through, the drudgery of I Klatus‘ work only becomes more infused with the stench of death. This is, again, how the record casts its accomplishment. The feeling of something rotting in the midsection of “Sorcerer’s Gaze” or the sudden rise of swirling wah in “The Alivist” circa the five-minute mark — these are purposefully arranged elements used to convey an atmosphere. There’s nothing haphazard about Nagual Sun; nothing that isn’t where and what the band wants it to be.

So even as its vibe is down almost in the exclusive, Nagual Sun succeeds by building the world in which “Jaws of the Shark” and “Final Communion” take place. It is about the realization of these grim, rueful ideas, rather than about offering their audience a lifeline. That’s not to say I Klatus don’t cast a broad set in terms of sound, but as Celtic Frost once did to thrash metal and as acts like Ramesses did to doom, they seem to push into terrain that’s just that extra bit filthy, just that extra bit darker, more extreme in its perspective. The plunder in “Jaws of the Shark?” Terrifying. The noise that coats the apex of “Final Communion?” It absconds into the far-out until it seems to finally pull itself apart and end the record more or less through dissipation — as fitting a last turn as one could ask for a release the intensity of which has been so obliterating, even in its quietest, most brooding stretches.

Each track on Nagual Sun adds something to the whole of the album’s impression, and while I Klatus set those who would engage with their work up for a grueling journey, there’s little question their fourth LP is meant to be taken in its entirety. Because of the growling, the bitter severity in some of its tones and the sheer force in its rawness, it will be too much for some, and that’s fine. Music like this isn’t meant to be universal. Rather, it’s a personal expression of time, place and thought, and I Klatus carve out a nuanced space for themselves amid the bludgeoning and the drear that ensues, making their doom not necessarily miserable in the emotion it conveys à la European-style drama-staging (or, if we want to keep it to Chicago, the also-deathly Novembers Doom), but a tangible result of that downtroddenness itself. Like Marcel Duchamp’s urinal a century ago, Nagual Sun challenges our conceptions of form and structure, asks what is and what can be art in a world so empty, and offers its answers in the fact of its existence as the result of a creative process and the brutality taking place within its scope.

I Klatus, “Sorcerer’s Gaze” official video

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I Klatus Post “Sorcerer’s Gaze” Video; Nagual Sun out Oct. 13

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 28th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

I think maybe more than ever it might be fair to think of Chicago’s I Klatus as a North American answer to the dug-in sludge cultism of UK outfits Ramesses and/or 11Paranoias. From the extremity they show on their new album, Nagual Sun, in the blackened genre-spanning reaches of “Sorcerer’s Gaze,” for which you can see a new video below, to the dirt-caked early-Crowbarism of a song like “Serpent Cults,” I Klatus seem to have found a similar wavelength to the UK troupe. Neither band pokes their head up all that often — I Klatus‘ last outing was 2013’s Kether (discussed here) — but you can rest assured that when they do, there’s some seriously disaffected, post-industrial-collapse doom about to play out that, apart perhaps from itself, shares its sonic space with just about nobody.

My hope is to have more on this one before Oct. 13 gets here, but we’ll see how that goes. Either way, keep an eye out for it if you’re looking for a litmus test for how much punishment you can take:

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Chicago Doom/Sludge Eclectics I KLATUS to Release ‘Nagual Sun’ on October 13

Chicago Doom/Sludge eclectics I KLATUS will release Nagual Sun October 13 on digital and analog (cassette) formats. The highly anticipated follow-up to 2012’s Kether is the band’s third full-length album (and fifth release overall). An official video for album track “Sorcerer’s Gaze” is available at this location.

The overall sound of Nagual Sun maintains the gritty roots for which I KLATUS is known, while at the same time launches the group into new and more fully fleshed-out dimensions of weirdness. Tom Denney is the primary soothsayer behind I KLATUS. Denney, whose background is steeped in the visual arts, has provided artwork and monsters for a laundry list of signed metal acts in the community (KYLESA, BLACK COBRA, SAMOTHRACE, CANNIBAL CORPSE, CEPHALIC CARNAGE and RWAKE just to name a few). His guitar squalls hard against the shores of this stoner metal effort, but also manages to rise above the storm in melodic hymns. Denney trades growling vocals with bass player, John E. Bomher, Jr. (BURY THE MACHINES, YAKUZA), who keeps things grinding nicely, while also providing some sweeter tones when they let songs open up and sweep across more ethereal planes.

Bomher doubles as the band’s producer with his extensive experience in the studio; his work on the album sets this release head and shoulders above their previous efforts in terms of production quality. The drums are championed by Chris Wozniak (LAIR OF THE MINOTAUR, EARTHEN GRAVE, SERPENT CROWN) who metes out doom in guttural timing. Wozniak just pounds and pounds, hitting that sonic-pocket, which gives the stoner/doom genre its feeling of lift and expansiveness. Some noises and textures by former member, Robert Bauwens, are also tucked into the nooks and crannies of these tracks. Last by not least, special thanks goes to author Ryan Sean O’Reilly for his contributions to the press release.

Track Listing:

Side A
Beneath the Waves
Serpent Cults
Sorcerer’s Gaze
Moment of Devastation

Side B
The Alivist
Jaws of the Shark
Father John Thomas (The Penitent)
Final Communion

https://iklatus.bandcamp.com/releases
www.facebook.com/iklatus
www.twitter.com/i_klatus
www.instagram.com/iklatus

I Klatus, “Sorcerer’s Gaze” official video

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