So how often do you find yourself wondering what a panic attack would sound like as music? Would you think it would be something like Slayer’s “War Ensemble”, or Ministry’s “Psalm 69”? Or maybe something along the lines of eerie calliope music? Maybe Lou Reed’s “Metal Machine Music”? Before I’d ever heard The Haxan Cloak’s Excavation I might’ve been inclined to think that panic would sound like late 80s thrash metal for sure, but I can say that without a doubt panic is ingrained into the grooves of an album called Excavation by The Haxan Cloak. It seeps from the speakers as I play the record. It lingers in the air long after the needle lifts from the grooves of the vinyl. It’s grumbling, titanic bass still pummels my ear drums even after the record sits motionless on the turntable. Excavation is an album you feel long after you’ve heard it.
The man behind The Haxan Cloak is Bobby Krlic. Krlic is a British musician and producer born and raised in Wakefield in West Yorkshire, and by the sound of the music he makes he must’ve lived in a haunted castle where there was devastating horror around every corner. Seriously, Excavation is about a moody of an album as it gets. Looming bass with what sounds like kettle drums being beaten then played backwards as the sound of what appears to be a heartbeat coming close to it’s last beat. Krlic said about The Haxan Cloak two albums, “The first record was about a person’s decline towards death, so this one’s about the journey he takes afterwards.” I have not heard the first Haxan Cloak record, but I can most definitely confirm that Excavation indeed sounds like a journey into the abyss of the afterlife. I could definitely see this record as the soundtrack to ones soul descending into some dark, complex, and most assuredly frightening world. Hell? Well let’s just say “The Mirror Reflecting I” and The Mirror Reflecting II” do not sound like something you’d hear as you entered those pearly gates. Listening to those two pieces of music I’m reminded of Richard Matheson’s story What Dreams May Come, about a man that dies in a car accident and moves onto to the afterlife only to find out that his wife killed herself out of sadness of losing him. She’s stuck in the Hell-like lower realm and he must venture down to this forbidden place for the damned and save her. Excavation has the feeling of a journey into dark places we can’t comprehend; not necessarily all doom and gloom, but a journey of darkness before reaching the light.
It may sound like maybe I don’t enjoy The Haxan Cloak, but on the contrary I like Excavation a lot. Being that half the time I’m listening to or writing about horror soundtracks, The Haxan Cloak fits right in with my steady listening diet. It’s a dark, brooding journey for sure, but it ends on a promising, dare I say optimistic, note with “Dieu” and “The Drop”. It’s all very cinematic and when I first heard the album I thought Krlic would be a perfect fit as a scorer of horror and sci fi cinema. I recently read that Krlic scored Michael Mann’s Blackhat back in 2015 and worked with Atticus Ross on the new John Hillcoat film Triple 9. As intense and anxiety-ridden as that movie looks, Krlic would be a perfect fit to help score that.
So this isn’t an album you’re gonna put on when friends are over having drinks and wanting to play cards or something. That is, unless you want those friends to hit the road early, then by all means throw it on.
Krlic’s work reminds me a lot of Mica Levi’s minimalist approach to music. Her work on Under The Skin was damn near genius, and tracks like “Consumed”, “Excavation”, and “Mara” follow the less is more approach she’s used to great effect. It’s quite amazing what pulling back and allowing the empty spaces to work to your advantage can do. Let the song devour the angry darkness in between the pushes and pulls of synth and low end. Someone should tell Ridley Scott to look The Haxan Cloak up regarding scoring that new Alien flick he’s working on. Just saying.
Iv’e wanted to discuss this record for some time now, but I just hadn’t found the right words to say. I’m still not sure I’ve found those right words, but I felt today was the day. I’ve been playing the album a lot lately. I’ve been enjoying the cavernous, sparse compositions on Excavation quite a bit as of late. Maybe it’s that we’re on the cusp between winter and spring; the days are getting longer and the nights are getting warmer. The darkness of winter is slowly fading, yet there’s still a few moments of winter’s chill and desolate nights left. Excavation is a nice reminder of that.
This isn’t party music, unless your party is for the damned. In that case, bring some chips and dip.