Album Review: Author & Punisher – “KRÜLLER” (Industrialgaze)

Written by Melinda

Author & Punisher KRÜLLER
Industrial, drone, doom
Released February 11, 2022

In theory I’m supposed to listen to many new albums every week or even every day as a hobby music journalist but every now and then I’ll go a long time without listening to much because I find myself craving a specific album every time. KRÜLLER has been to go to for me in 2022 so far. Author & Punisher is Tristian Shone, a solo audio experience from California where also bore the fruit of similarly minded experimental artists like Fantômas and exhibiting influences ranging the spectrum of of electronic and industrial music from Nine Inch Nails to Portishead. There is also have guest contributions from Perturbator and the non-Maynard members of Tool.

There is a big gothic industrial sound here that focuses on conceptual story themes and their accompanying musical expressions. It’s not super different from their previous 2018 album Beastland in terms of actual sounds used but it is far more thoughtful and gazelike here. A lot of the same abrasive textures and ideas although here they feel drawn out and squeezed for each moment a sound is worth. The custom made tools used for instrumentation that Tristian calls “dub machines”  and “drone machines” are really getting a work out here (and have apparently been upgraded significantly for this release). I don’t know anything about noise or industrial music on a technical level but I can only guess that the unique machinery used to put together this music will have DIY noise nerds backflipping in excitement. It’s a shared element on every Author & Punisher release, being partly responsible for the signature of their style.

With KRÜLLER various subjects are approached in a personally poetic manner, leaving much up for interpretation but the encompassing vibe is a feeling of unease while the world flails around us threatening to consume an anxious restless humanity. With tracks like “Incinerator” you have the focal point being climate change with the reefs slicked in oil and the sun approaching us slowly with only one inevitable burning end in sight. We set the groundwork for our own demise, “Incinerator, incinerator, accelerated, accelerated”. “Centurion” appears to be about an older generation holding onto reactionary values that are only going to crumble the world and everyone in it by forcing an inoperable war mode, “A crusher of heads/A chaser of tails/A fight to the death/The foolish prevail”.

“Misery” laments the loss of human-nature harmony of long gone eras with the finger being pointed at the missionary beginnings of religion shifting humanity towards worshiping the future over the present and being led astray by idols. “Faith, deceiver and destructor from the coming waves/Disguised with robes and gifts all meant for treachery/Survived thousands of years in eco-harmony/And you took it all away”. Other tracks like “Maiden Star” feel way more romantic, personal and encoded, “Home, said too much/Set too low, fire below”, which goes along nicely with the cover of Portishead’s song “Glorybox” which feels like a natural part of the album rather than a cover. The romantic sounding side of this project bleeds nicely into the clear social commentary for a good flavor balance that manipulates multiple emotions throughout the runtime from a doomy sense of justice to the doomed longing of modern living. 

Given that this project started in the late 00s – right after a massive peak in the industrial scene with the rise of cybergoth and various other industrial experiments, It’s not terribly surprising that their influences would also span a large array of dark electronic and goth projects as well. I’d have difficulty saying that they sound like one artist in particular because they are armed with tools and ideas resulting from a fruitful history of the genres, incorporating what works for the vision at the time. The result is something that feels both old and new, particularly if you were discovering new music at the dawn of internet popularity in which case the “old” will shine through bolstering you with a weird comfort and nostalgia. On previous albums they’ve had a mix of tunes that inevitably included stuff I don’t like about industrial music, usually the more hard repetitive sounds used to create tension or for edge sake whereas with this newest album a lot of that stuff is blurred away musically to focus on an adrift narrator in a world of blunt uncertainty and more than a hint of defeat.  

Its hard to nail down the things I didn’t like about the previous albums that can be found in abundance throughout the electronic genres, but I’m not at all a fan of the bravado type industrial whereas I am in adoration of the more tender approach. KRÜLLER leans more toward the latter than Author & Punisher’s more recent releases. A sign of maturity for a project that’s been around more than a decade, and the point at which I become most interested with a lot of bands. They have already experimented with their own sound signature and crafted a bunch of music in that image and a musician eventually reaches a point: To head towards changes, or end up making the same album over and over with diminishing returns. There’s more clean vocals and less harsher vocals. There’s more guitar-like melodies. As a whole it also feels more of an “album album” as opposed to a collection of songs with tracks expertly interwoven. Slowing things down was a great idea and so here I am, a new fan. 

Bottom Line

There’s so many reasons to listen to music and for me the primary thing I need is some kind of emotion which many artists struggle to produce using electronic elements. On KRÜLLER this is achieved with ease and finesse. Author & Punisher have always had a strong technical aspect to their music but now they are putting out stuff that will sink it’s self into the depths of your skin pulling on the wires connecting your nervous system all while expressing it’s own sentience. A kind of transaction. A heart to heart, for better or worse.