Metal forged by metal
Some people hunkered down to wait for the pandemic to end before going out to do the exact same thing they did before. Others utilized their time on the inside, letting the pandemic reshape their former selves. A musician that capitalized on their pandemic experience is one-man metal creator Author & Punisher. With machinery, intellect and a little help from some famous friends, Krüller is the perfect balance of art and tactile musicianship, utilizing dual meanings of the word metal.
Krüller is a meticulously crafted collection of melodic machinery set against the background of a desolate dystopian wasteland, aka, Author & Punisher’s view of our post-pandemic life. It is not an album to cherry-pick songs to listen to. Krüller is a complete work of art that begins as atmospheric and aloft but gets more and more secure in its dirt and grime as the album goes on. The tracks are unorthodoxly melodic, some of them even containing segments of moshable bops, such as the case on “Misery” and “Drone Carrying Dread.” Featured guest instrumentalists on the album are Danny Carey and Justin Chancellor from Tool as well as and Phil Sgrosso from As I Lay Dying and Saosin.
The man behind Author & Punisher is Tristan Shone, a mechanical engineer from San Diego, CA. Since 2004, Shone has put out 9 studio albums, most of which while working a day job at the National Center for Microscopy and Imaging Research at the University of San Diego. What truly sets Shone apart in the world of music and specifically the genre of metal, is that he creates original DIY instruments with raw materials like metal and stone. He is even in the process of launching a musical gear company called Drone Machines. More information regarding the production of his original instruments and gear company can be found in an interview Shone gave with Inputmag.com.
Krüller trudges along the path of darkness with its 3rd track “Centurion.” It draws one in with a reimagined, but similar haunting trope that’s often heard in Halloween-themed ditties. At fifty seconds into the song, it morphs into a soundscape of a warehouse in heavy production. There is a dichotomy presented where the song is spacey and atmospheric, yet still driving and tough, with the thick feeling of doom being palpable. Paying tribute to Women’s History Month, one could imagine this track being background music to Manhattan’s Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911 as the working women contemplated plummeting to their deaths, seeing no other way out. These ladies could be seen as “Centurion” of the women’s right to work movement, and during this terrible event, like the lyrics mentioned, were standing “at the end of the promised land, Ruined for all to come.”
Beginning with high-pitched static reminiscent of what one imagines they would hear if a glass of soda was accidentally spilt on a pc, the track “Blacksmith” goes off the rails into a full computational meltdown. Shone utilizes the opening static to create a repetitive melody that cuts through the discord while the overlaying tune carried within the lyrics creates a heavy dissonance. Single base notes are warped in a downward spiral and Shone even tries his hand at a bit of vocal growling. “Blacksmith” is a delightful earful of masterfully constructed destruction.
A minor drawback to the album would be Shone’s voice. From a standpoint of musicianship, it sounds untrained and forced. However, this is okay as the vocals are not the focal point of the album, simply another layer that plays conduit for the lyrics. There are so many components to decipher within each song, the timbre of his voice doesn’t necessarily distract the unversed ear, but instead adds another corrugation above the cacophony.
If Wall-E was remade with a banging metal soundtrack, the output would be Krüller. While tackling trendy subjects like climate change, it is not a breeding ground for flippant cynicism; it is a serious, well-crafted, genre-bending body of work that bridges the sonic divide between digital, physical and emotional. Encompassing so many thematic elements, Krüller may not tickle the fancy of a traditionalist metalhead. But for those with an open mind, it’s an inventive album full of intrigue, created with a multitude of bespoke elements that were built by hand, all in the name of metal.