King Crimson goes metal -- all the way!
Eleven years after the release of Three of a Pair, King Crimson came back, with a much harder edge and an intense new feel. THRAK was (and is) by far the band's most experimental and "metallic" album of their discography, mixing intense riffs with heavy rhythms and metallic melodies. The album borders on through and through progressive metal, and even has a somewhat thrashy feel to it at times. Overall, THRAK is an odd album as King Crimson's oddness goes, and in some ways that is great and in some ways it doesn't work out perfectly, but it is still a damn good album.
VROOOM kicks the album off with a taste of the experimental thrashy side of the music, with a great riff and some polyrhythmic drumming a la Bill Bruford and co. This is the first album that we hear the "double trio" lineup, which makes the music that much more interesting to listen to, especially with the layering of each instrument. The track has some great dynamics, switching between the metal riffs and the melodious sections rather easily, making this an overall great track and a great opener.
Coda: Marine 475 is the coda to VROOOM, and acts as a nice closer to the first section of the VROOOM on this album (there is another section at the end of the album). The track can seem a little boring at, seeming to crescendo forever and ever. The track does, for the most part, until it bubbles off and just drops you at the end with a sour taste in your mouth. This track lacks a bit, but still has that cool experimentation for the album.
Dinosaur is one of my favorite tracks on the album, and contains some of my favorite elements of their music. Finally we hear Adrian Belew signature voice, gracing some great melodic verses before breaking into some ingenious choruses with some really cool lyrics. Overall another fantastic track, furthering the new metallic vision of the band.
Walking on Air is by far the most melodious and beautiful tracks on the album, bringing back nostalgic feels from King Crimson's symphonic period in the 70s, and making a purely idyllic dynamic for the album. Both Fripp and Belew's guitar work is genius, not crazy or atonal nor lazy and boring, but a perfect balance, making a cool atmosphere for the song to just chill in the soundscapes of the air.
B'Boom breaks away from this beauty. B'Boom is essentially just a great drum duet between Bill Bruford and Pat Mastelotto. Being a drummer, I absolutely love it, but on the album it seems a little out of place. It takes an eternity to really get started up, but once it does it's a rocking track with some really cool rhythmic properties to it. As a single track, it's great, but it seems to break the flow of the album.
Here we have the mother of this album's experimentation. THRAK, the title track and a pure avant-garde metal track, is beautiful.... in it's own way. The riffs are just short of insane, throwing noise and music into an amalgam of pure insanity, King Crimson style. Overall, it is another one of my favorites, but not for the reasons I liked Dinosaur. THRAK brings you on an entirely new sonic journey, through the twisted avenues of Robert Fripp's sonic genius, and into the haunted realm of THRAK!
Inner Garden I is an interlude-like track, breaking swiftly from THRAK into a haunting melodic garden of despair and great lyrics. It is slow and atmospheric, truly making you feel like you are in some abandoned garden in a dark forest.
People brings yet another crazy dynamic to the album: funk. Yes, People is basically a funk metal album. It has some really great moments and riffs, but overall the track lacks the inspiration of the rest of the album. It's really catchy and has a great feel to it, but for some reason I feel it's not right for the album.
Radio I is the next interlude suite, this one again featuring some atmospheric and haunting soundscapes.
One Time is another great melodic song, again bringing back that 70s feel, with a modern twist. It's slow and atmospheric, not even as rocking as Walking on Air. Overall, the track is great and is extremely easy to relax with.
Radio II is just like Radio I, a slow and haunting atmospheric soundscape, similar to the stuff Fripp had been making since the 70s.
Inner Garden II is also just like Inner Garden I, a slow and haunting melodic journey through that same haunted garden.
Sex, Sleep, Eat, Dream sees the return of the funky experimentation, this time with more fervor and deliberation. This song fuses the avant metal and the funky experimentation of the album into one coherent track. The instrumental section is crazy, and effortlessly moves around feels and dynamics. Overall, Sex, Sleep, Eat, Dream is another great track on the album, moving the album forward in a great way.
VROOOM VROOOM continues the VROOOM "suite," bringing back similar riffs reprising the avant feel of the songs. As well as tieing the album together into a circular and complete loop, the song also introduces new riffs and atmospheres to the great string of songs. The song is one of the more metallic on the album, other than THRAK. Overall, this track, as well as the next one, make for a great closer to the album as well as a breathe of fresh air in the experimental spectrum of music.
VROOOM VROOM: Coda ends pretty much everything, the album, the VROOOM suite, and this "era" of King Crimson's history (no more studio recordings will have this strong of an experimental feel). This section takes many of the characteristics of the previous VROOOMS and processes them to an almost incoherent mesh of industrial noise and avant riffing. Overall, despite being one of the more crazy and incoherent tracks of the album, it does end the album in a feel appropriate to this crazy album.... crazy.
ALBUM OVERALL: It's kind of hard to rate an album that's as experimental as this. There are experimental albums that have no sense whatsoever and are just musicians destroying instruments, then there are experimental albums that really aren't experimental at all and are really just variations from their genre. Then there's THRAK. THRAK seems to be a happy medium, mixing the incoherency of the extremes with the beauty of the forefront. Overall, THRAK is easily one of my favorite King Crimson albums, even though I like all of them. It has a perfect blend of just about everything, making it an excellent addition to any collection of a listener who want something to new to listen to. 4 stars.