Bewildering and distressing times we live in, where the unstopped global migration of a microscopic organism has exposed a multitude of fissures in human societies that have been accumulating for countless generations, and turned them into gaping fractures. The scale of these terrible consequences is vast, a devastation writ large, but in some ways a reflection of what happens in so many solitary lives, where the accretion of seemingly minor problems over time can lead, and often does lead, to tragic and unmanageable outcomes.
The persistent failure of both individuals and societies to deal with mounting flaws until it’s too late is a kind of seemingly incurable ailment in the human condition. And thus it’s fitting that Kneel‘s new album, which was inspired by such thoughts, is itself named Ailment.
As the solo project of Portuguese multi-instrumentalist and producer Pedro Mau (ex-Kneeldown, Wells Valley), Kneel released a debut album named Interstice seven years ago but at last is returning with this follow-up full-length, set for an October 16 release by Raging Planet and Planet K, with vocals and lyrics contributed by Mau’s Wells Valley bandmate and Concealment guitarist/vocalist Filipe Correia. What we have for you today is a full stream of Ailment, preceded by thoughts about what you will be hearing.
The debt owed to early Gojira and to Meshuggah is evident (though the press materials for Ailment also give a tip of the hat to Burnt By the Sun). The songs make abundant use of earthshaking grooves and intricate rhythmic interplay, dosed with plenty of start-stop jolts, bursts of jackhammering savagery, and bouts of merciless, pile-driving brutishness, but equally enriched by mind-bending drum patterns and attention-grabbing string-slinging in the low end (which is a very deep and heavy low end indeed).
The primal power of the grooves can’t be overstated, but nor can the capacity of the music to tie your cranial neurons into knots, unravel them, and promptly create mystifying new intertwinings. Yet this is only part of the story, because Kneel combines the machine-like precision, the girder-strong power, and the engrossing intricacy of the rhythms with a feeling of unyielding bellicosity — and with an array of seething, squirming, and skittering anti-melodies that create disturbing atmospherics.
The songs jolt and clobber in brazenly savage and vehement expulsions of sound, but seeping within all those viscerally arresting experiences are moods of madness and desolation, of misery and mayhem. Leaning hard into dissonance and discord, the songs create tension and turmoil. The physical compulsion of the rhythms and the fascination produced by the inventiveness and complexity of the instrumental interplay is perpetually haunted by dark and menacing moods. You want to jerk and shake and bounce, to feel the liveliness of your own muscles and mind at work, but you know there’s a knife at your throat the entire time, waiting for a wrong move to slice you clean through.
There’s certainly no mistaking the inchoate violence in Filipe Correia‘s vocals. Occasionally he drops into growled and muttered proclamations, but his main gear is one of pure, incendiary fury, a form of spine-tingling madness in its own right.
After the opening onslaught of “Qualm”, “Awry”, and “Interim”, which collectively leave a listener’s nerves firing on all cylinders, Kneel takes a bit of a turn in the slow-motion stomp of “DYS”, whose bleak and bludgeoning barbarism is leavened with some of those ominous growled pronouncements and with nightmarish, disturbing arpeggios. It’s a frightening excursion into a perilous waking dream.
Yet even in the more brazenly energetic songs that pick up again after that slight digression there’s an unnerving quality to the music. There are again plentiful sequences of such pile-driving power and ruthless mien that each vigorous yet methodical blow seems to drive the listener deeper into the ground, until you’ve been swallowed up by the earth. Yet it’s poisoned ground that surrounds you, saturated in fear, pain, and splintering sanity.
To return to where we began, we’ll share Pedro Mau‘s own comments on the new album:
“We’re living in times that inconsequence leads us to appalling results and, eventually, to alienation (from ourselves; from one another). Like a careless premonition, ‘Ailment’ is that meaningless ache that in a later stage of life can result in awful consequences. The accumulation of small problems in our lives can lead us, sooner or later, to situations that can get out of our control. I believe that the key to self-control and life balance is in the daily management of the subconscious mind, although it’s easier said than done.”
Again, the album will be released on October 16th, and it’s available for pre-order now: