Knut Terraformer

[Hydra Head; 2005]

Rating: 3/5

Styles: death metal, dirge, sludge rock, instrumental
Others: Unsane, Eyehategod, Cherubs, Deathspell Omega

Perhaps it's not up to snuff with the production of some of the better metal acts recording these days, but I'm no audiophile. That and I kind of dig a cruddier sound when it comes to music for making ugly. Surely, I'm not even a partial metal-head, but I'm open to the experience (thanks, in no small part, to the Gummo soundtrack), and have thus managed to digest a fair share of soulcrushing heavies. I'm not hearing a lot of originality here, but I dig the ways in which the band subtly tweaks ubiquitous formulas. At times it gets away from metal and sounds almost Unwound-like (some of "Torvalds"). Metal purists may not go for this, but hardcore punk fans and dark sound tourists like myself should find much to revel in. It pushes the usual buttons that this sort of music pushes, leaning heavy on the clanging contrapuntal progressions.

Yet, as the album progresses, safety nets like vocals and detuned power chords are surreptitiously removed for spoken word, noise collage and eerily desolate instrumental passages. Some of my favorite moments are when the fuzz overdrives in a really fantastically chinsy way ("7.08" and the beginning of the enticing instrumental "Solar Flare"). While we're essentially talking about a you-like-it-or-you-don't kind of sound, there's something satisfyingly diverse about this recording. If you've ever read promising reviews of supposedly unorthodox hardcore bands like Page 99 and City of Caterpillar and then been somewhat disappointed upon listening, this band is the remedy. From track to track, it never feels like the group is just obligatorily repeating themselves.

The fact that the group is Swiss prevents me from picking on the band name. For all I know, both the meaning and pronunciation is cooler than what I could guess. But never you mind such trivialities. This is truly solid metal/punk/rock music that has those universal throat-ripping-roar vocals but doesn't lean on them too heavily, throwing us instrumental rock lovers a bone on a handful of tracks. And without sounding too BIG, they still manage to feel somehow epic by the time the melted plastic-lava ebb/flow of closer "Fibonacci Unfolds" courses over you.

1. 7.08
2. Wyriwys
3. Kyoto
4. Torvalds
5. Seattle
6. Bollingen
7. Solar Flare
8. Fallujah
9. Genoa
10. Davos
11. Evian
12. Fibonacci Unfolds

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