Locrian can branch out while still laying it on thick. In other words, they can have it both ways.
Infinite Dissolution is Locrian's first album in two years. For any other active band, that's expedient. For this outfit of self-described "experimental, avant-black metal artisans", that's quite a lull. After forming in 2005, the Chicago collective hit the ground running by churning out seven albums between 2009 and 2012. Since then, their pace has slowed but they still had enough edge and bite to their sound to make a Return to Annihilation lest any fans of fringe-metal directly equate the act of being prolific with churning out stuff of high quality. Infinite Dissolution keeps the thoughtful onslaught going steadily. One can be tempted to say "slow and steady wins the race", but you obviously can't refer to Locrian as slow.
With one foot in the rapidly-developing river flow of post-rock and the other firmly planted in the factories of grinding metal, Locrian use Infinite Dissolution to escort their sound so close to a breaking point that you can't help but wonder where they will take it from here. The opening track "Arc of Extinction" has an impressive arc [cough] all its own. The maelstrom fades in, guitars and electronics squealing from all angles. Drummer Steven Hess sends out a series of warning pounds, preparing the listener for Terence Hannum's vocal entrance. As Hannum proceeds to scream as if he were on fire, guitarist André Foisy turns his guitar from a tool used for white noise to one transporting a ten-ton riff. Texture and melody become more refined as "Arc of Extinction" rolls forward, concluding with desperate cries from the instruments as the noise fades. In a little over seven minutes, Locrian have set the stage for the rest of the album. In fact, they could have just stopped right there and they would have succinctly made their point.
But they didn't. The remaining 40 minutes of Infinite Dissolution takes an even more subtle and thereby more tense road. The clean guitar tone and gradual build-up of "Dark Shales" suggests a booming climax is just around the corner, but it never really comes. The song is all build-up and falling action, and you could certainly make the case that having no climax is more intense that having one. The three "KXL" movements, the third of which concludes the album, carry the idea of mood within metal even further to territories like glitch and ambient (what Hannum in particular is doing on "KXL, Pt. 2" sounds like recording software gone haywire). The electronic swashes of "The Great Dying" come and go like the tide -- if there were something murky in the water to go along with it. "Heavy Water", the thing that may very well cause mankind's extinction, marries Foisy's clean guitar to Hannum's stratospheric screams and new wave synthesizer. If this feels like too much genre-hopping, be assured that Locrian keep to their original vision of rocking out like crazy. "The Future of Death" and "An Index of Air" were jammed into existence for a listener such as you.
If you've followed Locrian thus far into their career, you know that they don't just cancel out one musical virtue with another. They may continue to branch out, but they still manage to lay it on thick. Trying to have it both ways can burn out your usual bands, and Locrian is not one of your usual bands.