posted on 12/2005 By:
Dost my ears deceive me? When Knut last showed their collective face back in 2002, with the excellent Challenger LP, they were a groove-oriented tech band of the Botch-ish persuasion. The band has always featured a weighty bottom end and some mild droning tendencies, but there was nothing on previous releases to foreshadow the opening tracks of new effort Terraformer. Firstly, the album kicks off with “7.08,” which is…an ominous ambient intro, complete with a sparse clean guitar melody. In a phrase, what the hell? This is the same band that opened their previous full-length with one of the heaviest tracks on the album; one would think that they’d dispense with the dramatics and get down to business.
And get down to business they do, though in an even more confusing manner. “Wyriwys” is Terraformer’s first real song, and it’s, well, un-Knutty (please kill me). Instead of slamming atonal grooves in five or seven, we’re treated to waves of throbbing, mega-dense guitars that rumble and ooze along at a decidedly Times of Grace clip. Excuse me, guys, I like this kinda shit just as much as the next dude, but what the fuck happened to you? Has Knut bandwagon-hopped and gone all sludgy and atmospheric on us?
Aw hell naw, Knut jus’ be messin’ wif ya, dogg. “Wyriwys” closes after a succinct four and a half minutes (instead of meandering into standard nine-minute territory) and gives way to the chaotic stutter of “Kyoto.” This is Knut as most listeners remember them: channeling the extraordinarily peeved spirits of Coalesce, Kiss It Goodbye and Anodyne. Their noisy attack hits just as hard as it has in the past and appears regularly throughout the album, but it now shares the stage with a brand of decidedly modern doom. Actually, that might be somewhat inaccurate. Knut doesn’t split their time so much as they have picked up many of slow’n’depressing-core’s famous proclivities. While this plays regularly in their favor (massive guitar tone, crushing bass, roomier and more diverse songwriting), it trips them up nearly as often (occasionally recondite songcraft, useless noise tracks), and it’s very clear that Challenger is more of a transitional release than a final product.
Notwithstanding, it’s a damn good album, but it’s hard to ignore that the band haven’t quite hit pace yet. Knut’s strongest songs are still dense riff-fests like “Fallujah,” “Seattle,” and “Torvalds.” While their slower, thicker material matches any of their many competitors in glacial oppressiveness, it can't really conjure the mindblowing pathos of a Neurosis, nor invoke ISIS’s soaring scope. Truthfully, Knut could go in any number of directions from here, and whether said direction is doomier, techer, or off on some wacky Swarm of the Lotus-esque tangent, I imagine that they’ll do quite well for themselves. This is a band that has proven themselves extremely capable on multiple occasions while still remaining largely under the radar, and it’s only a matter of another album or two before they really make a dent.
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