Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
King Crimson - THRAK CD (album) cover


King Crimson


Eclectic Prog

3.68 | 1200 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

4 stars Crimson Tertiary College of Highly Strung Arts 3 v Conformity High 2

Perhaps one of the most focused of all the Crimson releases post 74's 'Red' this certainly sheds some of the adipose tissue that caused the 80's cadets to stumble their way over three particularly sadistic obstacle courses designed by Sergeant Fripp. His and our reward is an elite corps of troops who have passed muster on what must be one of the most harrowing initiations in popular music. The 'fat wheezy boys with a note from matron' have been consigned to the sidelines to watch the first team strut their stuff against their abhorred local rivals 'Conformity High.'

Let's hurry along now as we are nearing kick off time....

'Vrooom' - The precocious younger brother of 'Red' and 'Larks Tongues' displays some fearsomely angular chops and a marked preference for heavier metallic tinged textures over the improvised constructions of yore. Thankfully however, the Crims never degenerate into bludgeoning metal riffery at any point. I think there are two main reasons for this:

The harmonic territory they inhabit is not conducive to thickly distorted guitar sounds i.e. if you play an E7#9 chord using someone like Tony Iommi's guitar rig, it just sounds like a modulated fart in a wind tunnel and:

The traditional 'metal' guitar sounds can only reliably appropriate Major, 5ths and (at a pinch) 7ths intervals before the chords start to break up into a sludgy and muddy mess. King Crimson very cleverly exploit this phenomenon on the intro, where some atonal 'squawking' chords are overlaid against a sinuous bass driven groove to great effect i.e the frisson caused by the disintegration of the chords is used for precisely that end, and it is used sparingly.

Belew's playing is particularly interesting on this record, as his command of more mainstream 'rawk' artifices and techniques is a very effective counterweight against the more avant garde leanings of Robert Fripp. Adrian appears to take on the role of a 6 string equivalent to the previous 'rocker' in the band, John Wetton and this lends the music a very accessible surface with which to perhaps entice new fans from the heavier end of the rock spectrum?

'Coda: marine 475' - an ever descending journey into some infernal region the directions to which have long been monopolized by Fripp & Co in their self published 'A to Z of the forbidden zone'.

'Dinosaur' - self depreciating humor is a quality all too rare in the prog world and similarly to 'Ladies of the Road' they display a healthy disregard for both their own lofty place in the hierarchy of rock and the mainstream's perception of them as irredeemably passe.

standing in the sun, idiot savant, something like a monument, I'm a dinosaur, somebody is digging my bones

This really is two fingers in the face of vacuous modernity and I love them dearly for it. Apart from the foregoing we have in 'Dinosaur' as good a song as they have ever written. The 'Tron gets dusted down for an appearance on the intro and together with an incredibly inventive arrangement and a classic chorus, we catch a glimpse of what the Beatles contribution to Prog could ultimately result in. Quite brilliant.

'Walking on Air' - Not a million miles away from the languid feel of 'Matte Kudasai', this is a very beautiful ballad sung with a Lennonish sharpness from Belew. The 'backwards' lead guitar sound conjured for the short solos is wonderful (how DO they do that?, I have heard 60's reversed guitar loads of times, but it ain't as good as this)

'Bboom' - Bruford and Mastelotto cook up a twin chef percussion stew of their own recipe and somehow succeed in lending a drum duet solo the same exhilarating rush as that of a classic three minute pop song. (Now that is quite an undertaking yes?)

'Thrak' - Another entry for the Crimson lexicon of freshly minted words (see 'Groon' and 'the Crukster') When the music lurches in it sounds like an uninvited gatecrasher who turns out to be the life and soul of the party. (but ends up trashing the stereo) There is considerable detail in the background to much of this album that only reveals itself after repeated listens and the source of these alien utterances is always ambiguous as Crimson manage to mutate bass, guitar, keys and vocals into all manner of haggard and twisted parodies of their original sources.

'Inner Garden 1' - Spooky and rattling skeletal song with a trace of Belew's former mentor David Byrne. Seems to exit 'hanging in the air' as if smothering an unspoken thought. Very eerie and affecting.

'People' - Infectious lop sided funk that only Crimson could bring off with any credibility in the prog domain. Truly inspired rippling guitar arpeggios on a brilliant chorus and unusually for this band, backing vocals. Yet more of that forward thinking 'backwards' guitar that I love to bits and this track above all else represents for me, a real manifestation of where prog could sit quite happily with the appellation of 'modern rock' without any hint of self consciousness.

'Radio 1' - Disorienting electronic glissandos as though we had tuned in accidentally to the premiere of Norman Bates first piece of musique concrete. Like an axe wielding leprechaun (Short and scary)

'One Time' - Beautiful plangent guitar on a deceptively simple ballad (the meter and rhythm are very elusive, try tapping out the beat, like me, you will probably get lost) Very memorable tune brilliantly sung as always by Belew. Don't want to sound like 'Mr Picky' but it may be a tad overlong?

'Radio 2' - rather pointless little ambient 'choccy drop' that only serves to illustrate what an air conditioning system on Neptune might conceivably sound like? However we will forgive them this aberration as at 1 min 3 seconds it doesn't stick around long enough to qualify as 'ambient' i.e any old shit through a big reverb

'Inner Garden 2' - Erm, call it a wild stab in the dark if you like, but as this is the same harmonic material as employed on Inner Garden 1, why not JOIN THEM TOGETHER LADS INTO ONE SONG?

'Sex, Sleep, Eat, Drink, Dream' - (If you exclude the 3rd, you get the life of Kate Moss) Had John Lennon survived into 1995 he may in all likelihood have come up with something like this. There is a hint of the Beatles throughout Belew's work and although I would deem it as merely an avowed influence it is not, despite claims to the contrary by his many detractors, derivative. Let's face it, if you are even tenuously employed within the realm of popular music and are NOT influenced by the Beatles, it really is time for a career change don't ya think?

'Vrooom, Vroooom' - I feel this is tantamount to a remix of the opening track and although it deviates sufficiently to be entertaining it seems to rather 'over egg the pudding' somewhat. (Another slice?, no really I'm fit to burst thanks) The ascending motif is very similar to that employed on 'Red'.

'Vrooom, Vrooom, Coda' - Again, this reeks of an 'outtake' culled from an earlier version of some of the themes heard previously and yes, it is certainly bracing, but hardly constitutes a separate composition.

This is a very fine Crimson album that certainly breaks new ground for a band who have always stubbornly refused to sit still for any length of time. I do think that the charge of 'neo-metal' attached to some of their later work is rather an exaggerated one as there is considerably more variety and subtlety displayed here than on most of the other so-called prog metal outpourings I have heard.

Despite a rather leg weary finish on Thrak the Crimson College first eleven managed to hold out in the end to vanquish their hated opponents in the Conformity Eleven. (Hooray! let's celebrate with lashings of pop and a midnight snack in the dorm chums)

ExittheLemming | 4/5 |


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Share this KING CRIMSON review

Social review comments () BETA

Review related links

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives

Donate monthly and keep PA fast-loading and ad-free forever.