I don’t know why, but I end up reviewing a lot of bands that take an inordinately long time to record their works. I’m still waiting for one of them to call themselves Cicada… Maybe Knife the Glitter should have: it would have been a better name, and with a 15-year incubation period for this album, it would be appropriate. Apparently the name came about from a misread sentence during story-time back in the band’s formative years, and they decided to stick with it regardless of naysayers. Musically, the biggest name in the band is guitarist Kevin Antreassian, who played guitar with Dillinger Escape Plan over the last few years. The band describes their music as experimental, complex, grinding metalcore. The first half of that description intrigued me enough to take a shot at this, while the second half worried me.
Knife the Glitter is an odd enough band name, but any of their song titles could have provided something even more interesting. I mean, who wouldn’t be excited for new releases from “Gargle Clamp,” “Highly Electric Squirrel,” or “Permanent Baby Snowpants?” What I’m trying to say is, these guys seem to have a knack for weird, off-kilter names. The good thing is that these names totally fit their music. Turns out Knife the Glitter (the band’s debut and final album) sheds all semblance to the collectives early metalcore leanings, instead aiming for a highly complex, jazzy, progressive sound. If you yearn for a comparison, think of a more crazed, metallic version of ConstruKction of Light-era instrumental King Crimson with some Dillinger Escape Plan added to the mix and you won’t be far off. Released at the end of 2017, Knife the Glitter is just now picking up some steam, and thus we bring you a review a few weeks past the release date.
It may have taken eight years to record Knife the Glitter, but in fits and starts: it only took the band one day to lay down the drum tracks (and the drumming is crazy), it took them a spread of three more years to record guitars, and yet more years to mix the whole thing. The wait was worth it, though. The album is chock full of angular riffs and staccato bursts of energy. Opening track “Idiot City” is a frantic, chaotic trip through progressive extremism, as are all of the songs. “Gargle Clamp” features dying-cat fretwork, more frenetic pacing and craziness, and all the trappings of free-form jazz dialed up to eleven, while “Bumble Bee Infant” gives one the impression of a hyperactive insect going mental inside the hive – but really, every song on this album gives that impression.
If the album suffers from anything, it is a sense of sameness that creeps in sometime around the fifth off-kilter song, where really the only variance is song length. Compositionally, they all follow the same template, which consists of jagged edges and unexpected hairpin turns into chaos. While each song on its own is a killer display of bizarre musicality (not only does Antreassian prove he’s a maniac, Ryan Newchok slays it on bass and Eli Litwin absolutely destroys his drum kit), listening to nine tracks that are essentially the same can blur time. The changeups are rare: “Highly Electric Squirrel” is a slower-paced number, while “Permanent Baby Snowpants” makes use of 80s synth patches and breakneck violin work. Fortunately, this kind of insanity is right in my wheelhouse, so I love cranking this unmitigated chaos.
Instrumental prog metal is not any easy genre to excel at, but Knife the Glitter does so. Sure, the similarity of all the tracks is a detriment to the record, but the songs are by no means monotonous. Rather than going on the occasional tangent, each song seems to be a complete digression from convention. Knife the Glitter would have been served well with variations in pacing and dynamics, but as it stands it’s a solid slab of prog that stands out from the crowd.