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On the cover of Locrian's new album, Return to Annihilation, an abandoned shopping cart stands in an empty parking lot, veiled by fog. It’s reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy's The Road, and that cart his narrators push through a landscape wracked by cataclysm. As it happens, Locrian's Relapse Records debut, marked by its blasted, apocalyptic feel, draws from another devastation tome with an unnamed protagonist: Samuel Delaney's Dhalgren.

On Annihilation, Locrian returns to the massive, often terrifying spaciousness that haunts its previous records, particularly The Clearing & The Final Epoch. Here, however, it's welded to prog and krautrock, extending a kind of warmth that could be mistaken for an effort on Locrian's part to create something more approachable.

Instead, the beautiful and moody moments on “Two Moons” or “Exiting the Hall of Vapor and Light” – or the fun, almost danceable “Eternal Return” – make what follows all the more harrowing. Terence Hannum's howls echo from a long way off, as though he's calling for help from a distant cell in a prison otherwise stripped of life. “Panorama of Mirrors” suffocates with its throbbing synth, echoed screams and frenzied guitar drone. On their own, those passages would wound like a serrated blade; following such sublimity, they twist the knife.

The album hinges on its two suites, including the title track, which sweeps from ritual chanting to triumphant, shoegazey riffing in a tidy seven minutes. “Obsolete Elegies” takes its time, opening with minor-key strummed guitar and passing through waves of Mellotron, quiet piano, pummeling rock, and the occasional distant scraping noise, like some crippled cyborg that won't give up the chase. At the track's climax, Hannum's shouts braid with 4/4 drums and guitars you could call anthemic – if, indeed, there are any anthems left after the apocalypse comes.

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Beth Winegarner

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