Knelt Rote Push Towards The Extreme On Alterity
The thing that has managed to keep me fixated on Extreme Metal for most of my life is surprise. I’ve been throwing myself into the same pit for 18 years and I still haven’t managed to reach the bottom. Every time I think there’s nowhere left to go, no path unbeaten, there’s somebody else way the fuck down, out of the light. A handful of maniacs are combining the same old ingredients in a different ratio and making a brand new cacophony all their own.
I found Knelt Rote by complete accident almost 10 years ago, around the release of From Without. A beautiful maelstrom of breakneck grindcore painted over thickly with vicious power electronics. Like Discordance Axis, re-recording Altars Of Madness, with Masami Akita, in a thunderstorm. Completely unlike anything else. Full Of Hell would form a year later. Roots Of Earth… would not happen until 2011. Knelt Rote were there first.
Insignificance releases in 2010. They’ve changed. The delivery is more focused, vocals more guttural. More bass, more dissonance. A little slower. The guitars are hammers instead of knives; more Altars and less Madness. The noise remains, almost fully integrated. Clearly searching for a way to move forward and on the verge of finding it. I write to the band, and they mail me down a home-baked CD-R of both albums in a plastic slipcase with xerox’d inserts.
Two more years and a signing to NWN!P gives us Trespass and a band further distilled. A sound hinted at on “Constituent Of Oblivion” now fully realised: Simpler, sinister moods wind around battle-march drums and vocals subterranean in all but a handful of moments. A worthy entrant into the murky Death Metal canon, but something important was missing…
It’s paragraph four and I haven’t even mentioned the album I’m reviewing. Why? Because now maybe you’ll understand why it’s a big deal this album sounds the way it does. 10 years since their debut, and Knelt Rote have flung their aperture way the fuck open again with Alterity. All but abandoned is the simpler, brooding Death Metal they courted for so many years. This time it’s a massacre; short, obscenely loud, packed to the brim with chaotic flashes of power electronics and so frantic it’s on the verge of breaking apart. This is the sound of a band that has found itself again in a fresh and terrifying way.
Alterity bursts with sound. It erupts to life instantly with ‘Lachesis’; maniac screams struggle to pierce berserk, scarcely contained noise. Guitars are much wider and rich with harmonic clarity. Grandiose sheets of half-diminished chords are punctured by weaving harmonised melody lines, framed by stabbing palm muted fight riffs. Drums blast on precisely, relentlessly and at ever increasing speeds. Vocals are delivered in furious tandem, dripping with hatred and thick with chunks of throat. Bass is dense and meandering in the obfuscated space beneath the clamour.
‘Lineage and Dependance’ shows the increased influence of Emperor by way of Anaal Nathrakh with its marching “Curse You All Men” intro, tumbling swiftly back into rapidfire grind and hammering war metal. These flecks of near-symphonic black metal guitars permeate Alterity in place of the murky death metal of Trespass, and the new colours allow Knelt Rote the freedom to stretch beyond their bounds.
By the midpoint we’re met with ‘Othering’ and attacked out the gate by a wild Hanneman playbook guitar solo. New and peppered throughout, another reminder that the band absolutely don’t give a fuck and there’s no holding back. ‘Othering’ is the most synergistic of old and new: power-violence heritage smashing into fresh motivic evil harmonised in minor thirds. Pushing and pulling at the tempo, tapering off into volatile sound art before bursting back into ‘Salience’ and ‘Black Triptych’, both featuring more truly ignorant squeals, unhinged and violent until the last deafening moment.
In saying all this florid bullshit, Alterity should not (and virtually cannot) be dissected: it seizes you for its duration to spit directly in your face. It’s problematic to isolate moments that define it as art. The art is the totality. All elements are perpetually fighting for dominance, each overthrowing the other until the tide of harsh noise washes back in to erode it all away. For 22 sharp minutes it feels like we never reach a ceiling. No wall. Everything gets louder and louder and louder and noisier and more overwhelming until the final beat of the final bar, then it’s gone… and after a moment to think about it, you play it again.
This is the album I’ve wanted for nearly a decade, and I didn’t know was coming until it was already at my throat. To quote my boy Mattia (Sentient Ruin): Everyone sucks now.
Full marks. 5 shattered thrones.