Knut, the Swiss metal group, has been making noise since 1994. They released a debut (Bastardiser) in 1998, a follow up (Challenger) in 2002, and they now present their third-full length album, Terraformer. Three records in 12 years is a slim output by anyone’s standards, but Knut makes up for what they lack in productivity through intricacy, patience, and sheer volume.
But while competent, such craftsman-like assembly does little new, innovative or intriguing; on Terraformer Knut doesn’t give much excitement for anyone who’s not already a fan of the generic Hydra Head sound: atmospheric drones, overwhelming bursts of noise, and complex rhythms battling against each other.
There’s less vocal work here than on Knut’s previous work, and while that thrusts the technician-like loops of metal riffs to the forefront, I can’t help feeling that there’s something missing. Maybe it’s naïve, but I keep wishing for just a bit of melody; otherwise, the music’s reminiscent of Rammstein’s industrial sludge sans-harmony.
We do get vast washes of distorted sound. There’s a reason they describe this music as punishing: “Fallujah” blasts with standard hyperactive grit-your-teeth hardcore sound, the customary shredded vocals replaced with spoken word. On “Genoa”, we get changing time signatures and a massive wall of distorted noise.
Elsewhere, Knut allow music’s mechanics to reign: the calculated time signature changes and leisurely unfolding, overlapping song-segments suggest mathematical precision. Slow-burner “Solar Flare” is a highlight in this regard, following a drawn-out arc of crescendo-release, sudden space-gargles taking the place of the needling guitar noise; and by the end of the song, so otherworldly as to suggest vast, empty regions of space. Similar, too, the opening to the finale, “Fibonacci Unfolds”, all atmospheric guitar fuzz.
Listening to Terraformer is like listening to a cutting-edge sound from two or three years ago, perfected; so it sounds complete, but sits as an almost-anachronism. It’s a shame that current drone faves Sunn O))), or hyperliterate Lightning Bolt, have taken heavy music in new, more interesting directions. In the end, this is probably one just for the fans: if you’re not already into Knut, there’s nothing here that’s particularly vital.