Kowloon Walled City’s “Grievances” is one I discovered through an NPR countdown of the 100 best metal records released in 2015 http://apps.npr.org/best-songs-2015/#. It was one of a handful on the list that grabbed my ear. I admit that I’ve lost my patience with most of what passes for metal these days, but curiosity got the better of me. I”m glad it did simply for turning me onto this band.
In metal, a good riff needs to bury itself into your soul after passing through the brain, otherwise it becomes forgettable. A large swath of the songs I found in NPR’s metal picks fell into the technique trap and I haven’t really been impressed with the Yngwie Malmsteen approach to metal in a very long time. Kowloon Walled City’s riffs avoid going down that well traveled road, instead opting for a more thoughtfully designed chaos rather than military order.
Hailing from San Francisco, Kowloon Walled City’s third full length release and is an incredible record, one that could rest easily in the Touch & Go or Amphetamine Reptile catalogues just as much as it does on Neurot’s. Like the bastard son of The Unsane and Slint, this album tumbles and claws it’s way through a jagged edged world of modern hell on earth. A sudo study of the modern working stiff similar to Cop Shoot Cop’s “White Noise” with slightly less pointed solipsism.
Sonically, this record has a touch of professional polish to it that doesn’t over shadow the music, and instead enhances it. Much in the same way that Shellac’s “Live at Action Park” sounded like it was recorded at Abbey Road (because it was), this album sounds like it was recorded somewhere with either good treatment or a lot of hard work on mic placement and plenty of DI boxes. Clean without being obnoxious.
The bass has a certain lower mid range growl to it that sounds really tight when blended with the not-so-overly-compressed-and-distorted guitar used in most of metal. Once the guitars do open up, the bass still comes through and never seems to get lost in the mix. I’m a bass player primarily so this I’m always on the lookout for these things. Go with it.
I understand from some of my research that Scott Evans, the guitar player and singer in the band, engineered and produced this album. Having done that myself, I know how hard that can be, yet he pulls it off, it seems, with little effort. Guitarist Jon Howell, bassist Ian Miller, and drummer Jeff Fagundes all get ample space to breath on this record and overall the album is very well balanced.
My one complaint is that the album feels short to me. By the end of “The Grift”, which also happens to be the shortest song on the album at 3:47, I’m left with an overwhelming feeling of want. I needed more than this album was giving me and that’s a good thing. I’m looking forward to delving into their back catalogue (Bandcamp) and can’t wait to hear what they do next.