Knelt Rote - Alterity - (6/10)
Published on March 13, 2018
It seems that in metal, not even polar opposites can stay bitter at each other for very long. The fusing of genres that’re similar in essence, but wildly different in approach and execution, is becoming more and more common and we’re going to need to accept this. Purists may piss and rage about it all they like, but the melting pot is getting larger and it’s getting increasingly difficult to discern one genre from another. Who could’ve predicted that, way back in the day, Justin Broadrick would combine the slow mechanical crush of industrial and marry it to the buzzsaw metal of grindcore to birth forth industrial metal. Or when those guys from Anthrax and Dan Lilker and a roadie came together, as a joke, to give crossover thrash the legitimacy no one expected it to get? Hell, sometimes metal and genres that aren’t remotely metallic have come together to craft some pretty interesting cuts. Folks, we are in a golden age of metal experimentation and fusion. And sometimes, as the old music journalist joke goes, you count the time as so: one, two, trend.
Today’s trend (yes, I believe it is one) is the marriage of grindcore and black metal. The punk-metal bastard child and the brooding forest-dwelling goat-killer. This isn’t a new trend, so to speak, but it’s one that I find showing up quite a bit. See, we have the extreme metal wunderkinds of Anaal Nathrakh to thank for taking this very extreme sides of the spectrum and giving it full-throated, bloodied and writhing life. Now modern classics like ‘In the Constellation of the Black Widow’ and ‘The Whole of the Law’ have proven that adding that grindy edge to kvlt rawness is more than possible. It’s fucking welcomed. I am reminded, of all things, of a quote from a children’s movie: does God stay in heaven because he too is afraid of what he’s created? (Seriously, that shit is from Spy Kids 2, and it haunts me) This question, I believe, can accurately be answered like this: if Mayhem is the devil, and Napalm Death is God, then behold, Anaal Nathrakh, the bastard child, the new savior, the one all fear.
But let’s cut the bullshit. Yes, Anaal Nathrakh is one of metal’s most blistering and unrelenting acts of recent memory, and their place in the underground has been cemented for some time. Probably not the first to take these two extreme styles and put them in a rusty cage together with no choice but to mate, but certainly the first to bring them together in a way that made everyone go ‘oh shit!’ Now, I’ll admit, it isn’t a full blown trend yet, but that doesn’t mean it won’t go the way of punky sludge or slamming deathcore. Maybe because it’s a cross of two styles that have always shunned popularity and aimed to be as extreme and harsh as possible, regardless of underground status or visibility in the global metal scene. But regardless, black metal being infused with other genres is nothing new, and grindcore just happens to fit rather nicely. And that’s where Knelt Rote come into play.
The American black/grind trio Knelt Rote must’ve reformed a small time ago because for a while, they seemed to have been disbanded since 2015. In their early days, they were straight up noisegrind, blasting out with their debut album ‘From Without.’ But the noise wouldn’t stay, as the band took up a more kvlt approach to their grind tendencies with their sophomore cut, ‘Insignificance.’ It’s a review for another day, but let me just quickly say, that album is a damn good slice o’ metal. What followed was another album, ‘Trepass,’ which soldiered on in this style. But then, radio silence was observed by the band, as they broke-up in 2015. But apparently not?
Courtesy of those cool guys over at Nuclear War Now!, a new Knelt Rote album seems to have dropped just last month. Now, the details are scarce about whether or not the band is back together, but I won’t let that get in the way of judging this album properly. Right from the get-go, the band is keeping up with that wall-of-absolute-fucking-sound production style that is oh so popular these days. But unlike other albums where it mostly dissolves into almost overcooked sludge territory, every instrument feels crisp and precise. The vocals aren’t much to speak of, since they follow the full-throat growls we’re so accustomed to, but they mesh nicely with the overall harsh sound of the record. The tracks here have traded in the epic six-or-more minute trudges of black metal and are instead crafted with brevity in mind. while not grindy microsongs, the album does fly by rather quickly, especially when you’re not paying attention.
Which brings me to my main gripe with ‘Alterity’: it just feels lacking. It’s not bad, but it feels too stripped down with the songwriting and presentation for it to be of any staying power. Now, what I’m about to say pertains to my personal experience of listening to this album, so bear with me: listening to Knelt Rote made me want to listen Anaal Nathrakh.
And thus, we have come full circle.
Knelt Rote know what they’re doing. They’re technically a decent band, and there are people who’ll dig them regardless. But as this album played on and I soaked it up, I kept thinking, ‘damn, I just wanna listen to some Anaal Nathrakh.’ Because this album reminds me of them and how they do the blackened grind thing WAY better. I kept wanting to listen to those guys rather than this. Yes, I know it’s unfair to compare the two acts, but this is just how I reacted. On an objective level, Knelt Rote’s songwriting is satisfactory: the tracks are bangers that extreme metal fans can dig without worry. The riffing is solid to the core, everything is on point in terms of tone and performance, and neither side of the two styles overpower the other, creating a very equal blend that works wonderfully. Grindcore and black metal, strange bedfellows they may be, can work in the right hands, and technically, it works here.
When a band like Anaal Nathrakh have already made a career for themselves completely REINVENTING what bands can do within the negative space between these two genres, it’s going to be hard not to look at other bands that come along and do the same thing to lesser results. Knelt Rote have done a servicable job with this hybrid style, the bar, I feel, might be raised higher than we initially thought. And sadly, I feel this album might prove such a thing.