Author & Punisher – Krüller


Tristan Shone (aka Author & Punisher) is one of the most original artists in the industrial scene. As a mechanical engineer by day and a musician at night, the San Diego composer builds his own instruments and works with a custom-made rig for his live shows. To see him onstage is a captivating experience that dazzles as much for its industrial gadgetry as it does for its industrial beats. Like this reviewer, you might have discovered his music through the ‘Nihil Strength’ video, where he performs his instrumentation like a soldier utilising his survival kit under attack. Krüller is his ninth album, but will it deliver on his full potential or lose purpose like the last third of 2018’s Beastland LP?

The first thing you’ll notice on Krüller is the improvement in Shone’s vocal range. He packed an impressive hardcore scream on the last record, but this time he widens his scope to include a higher tenor range. Opener, ‘Drone Carrying Dead’, showcases the usual elements we expect from an Author & Punisher song – distorted noise effects, droning keyboard notes, and layers of overdrive. The soundscapes here induce the feeling that you have something to regret from your past, but you can’t recall the trauma that brought you to this point. Those soothing high-frequency synth melodies do a good job of breaking up the repetition, yet the music retains a strange dream-like hold on your senses. You might even call this industrial post-rock.

Though Krüller lacks anything as monumental as ‘Nihil Strength’, it boasts at least four strong cuts among the eight compositions on offer. ‘Incinerator’ starts like a sinister industrial death trap from Swans circa 1986 and mutates into something more akin to the mid-1990s when Marilyn Manson had Trent Reznor writing his songs. The verses subsist on a cloud of fuzzy synths that speak like a faint breeze rather than a windstorm. In the heavier moments, you have something much more menacing – substitute the synths for guitars, and it’s not too far away from the abstract post-metal of Cult of Luna. ‘Centurion’ shows similar promise but soon dissipates like an outtake from The Fragile by Nine Inch Nails. That’s the main problem with this record. Too many of the songs saunter along when you want them to scintillate. ‘Misery’ is just as guilty in the way it teases you with a sophisticated mix of dynamics only to withhold that epiphany you crave towards the end. What is the purpose, Tristan? Where do you want this song to go? The pointless cover of Portishead’s ‘Glorybox’ does little to sustain the momentum at track six.

We need more compositions like the excellent, ‘Maiden Star’, which incorporates shoegaze and the Teutonic sparkle of Kraftwerk at the same time. Listen to the chorus: “Two hearts seek a better start/ Two hearts, two nodes/ Two hearts seek a better start/ But I don’t know if I can take it anymore.” Close your eyes, and this could be Deftones delivering this refrain. Play it a second time if you’re unsure. This is a tune! If only Genghis Tron’s comeback album from last year could reach this standard…

Like too much of the Author & Punisher back catalogue, Krüller continues in the same vein as those that came before it. The flashes of originality are breath-taking, but the album experience tails off towards the end when it should be building you up for a triumphant climax. It’s good, but it ought to be great when you consider the talent of its creator.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 11/02/2022

Record Label: Relapse Records

Standout tracks: Drone Carrying Dead, Incinerator, Maiden Star

Suggested Further Listening: Greg Puciato – Child Soldier: Creator of God (2020), Anatomy of Habit – Even if It Takes a Lifetime (2021), Deftones – Deftones (2003)