There are two things I really like about Krallice’s “Diotima”. The first is the quality of the musicians. The album is full of intricate, interweaving passages that require precision and discipline from the performers. The band always stays in sync, even through shifts in and out of odd time signatures. They also pull off some tricky transitions. For example, in the midst of a technical passage, the bassist will suddenly take over lead and the guitars will control the rhythm. The second thing I like about the album is the phenomenal cover. A sharp, mountainous landscape covered in mist reaches into oblivion. In the left hand corner, a single tree sneaks into the picture. The viewer is placed directly within the landscape—you can taste the mist and feel the cool night air.
Unfortunately, the album cover is a better work of art than any of the songs on “Diotima”. For all their technical skills Krallice are incapable of writing a good song. “Diotima” is full of songs that lack emotion, personality or dynamics. I am honestly not sure what sort of mood Krallice is going for (dark, eerie, somber, what’s going on here?); the spirit of the album is utterly ambiguous. The riffs are similar to those of early Satyricon, but they lack melodic quality found on those albums. There is not a single memorable melody on the whole album. Nor is “Diotima” a tour-de-force of dissonance or controlled chaos. The album is just a long series of watery riffs that stir no emotion or aesthetic interest.
To make matters worse, the songs are 6-13 minutes long and the album is almost 70 minutes! Listening to the whole album is an utterly innocuous. The songs don’t really build toward anything—they just wade through their own mediocrity, throwing in a technical twist here and there, before unceremoniously ending. Each song is like listening to your grandpa telling you an extremely intricate story about going to the barber shop, the grocery store or waiting for the bus.
The blandness is further complicated by poor mixing. The guitars lack edge, which exasperates their lack of punch. Sometimes the sound of the instruments start to bleed into each other and the music breaks down into a muddled mess (i.e. the 12:00 mark of “Litany of Regrets”).
Ultimately technical skill does not get a band very far without songwriting. "Diotima" is full of poorly written songs, which lack melody and aesthetic; no amount of technicality can redeem these inadequacies. Like a long journey through an ugly landscape, “Diotima” is dull, laborious and tiring.