(Andy Synn dissects the excellent new album from A Constant Knowledge of Death, out this Friday)
There are several cultures in the world who have a similar tradition, wherein their younger members are given a chance to go out and explore the world, to experience different cultures and ways of living, before they have to settle down.
And I can’t help but think that Massachusetts metallers A Constant Knowledge of Death have been on a similar journey over the course of their career so far, having experimented with (in no particular order) poignant Post-Hardcore, poppy Prog-Rock, moody Post-Metal, subtly blackened Sludge, and electronica-inflected dissonance as the years have gone by.
But while the band’s progressive pilgrimage from one genre to the next has certainly produced some fascinating creative results, it was clear (or, at least, it’s clear in hindsight) that they were always searching for something… a sound of their own, and a place to call home… that was always just out of reach.
Which is why I’m so happy to be able to say that on Dissecting a One-Winged Bird it feels like the group have finally, and fully, found themselves.
Now, as someone who considers themselves more than passingly familiar with the group’s diverse discography up to this point, I must admit that I still wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from this album, although perhaps it should have been obvious that – at some point – the band were always going to attempt to fuse all (or, at least, almost all) of their inspirations and influences into a singular, cohesive piece of work.
Regardless of whether I should, or shouldn’t, have been better prepared however, I like to think I’d still have been just as blown away by this record, which leans most heavily on the sludgier side of the band’s sound (comparisons to Isis would not be unwarranted), while also incorporating some of the moodiness and edginess more commonly associated with the likes of Poison The Well and Zao, as well as a level of discordantly infectious – almost Death Metal-ish – ferocity reminiscent of latter-day Wake.
Indeed, there are several songs here – including unrepentantly aggressive, yet abrasively atmospheric, opener “Breach Glass Horizon” – which remind me of the very best moments of the latter’s outstanding Devouring Ruin, and I can only hope that Dissecting… will provide just as much of a boost to this band’s profile and popularity as that record did for its creators.
But while this is undoubtedly the group’s heaviest work (even outdoing their impressively intense Everything Was Possible… EP from 2019) it’s not just the album’s gratuitously heavy guitars and propulsive percussive patterns which make for such an impactful listen, it’s the way the songs seem to shift shape and evolve practically in real-time – whether that’s the seamless transition from raging catharsis to aching ambience (and back again) in “The Hallowed Castration of Throne”, the slow-but-steady build up of dissonant density and oppressive, pseudo-industrial atmospherics in “Speak Ill”, or the constantly increasing intensity of “You Will Be Conscious” – without losing their sense of structure or cohesion in the process.
This is perhaps most notable during the climactic “ACKOD” (I’ll give you one guess what that stands for) which, over the course of a little more than eleven-and-a-half minutes, moves smoothly and seamlessly back and forth between chaotic discordance and rhythmic, pneumatic heaviness, doom-laden atmosphere and blast-driven fury – while also throwing in a variety of stunningly visceral vocals and some utterly spellbinding violin work – in a manner that defies easy and simplistic genre-categorisation while also establishing the fact that A Constant Knowledge of Death have truly, and undeniably, come into their own on this album.
So, please, don’t let this one slip under your radar. Because while this month has been full of heavily-hyped – but, in my opinion at least, often highly overrated – albums, this definitely isn’t one of them. In fact, it might just be a dark-horse candidate for many “Album of the Year” lists come December. And you heard it here first.