Review Summary: Riffs that once were astonishingly brutal have lost their force.
Let’s face it, “h/armless” from Knut’s breakthrough LP “Challenger” was one of the most crushingly brutal songs of the last twenty years. Forget Gorguts, Behemoth, or Suffocation, “h/armless” was enough to pound its listener’s brain into submission. The track may have consisted of only a single palm-muted riff overdriven to near amp extinction but it made for a tremendously powerful experience. Listeners had only two options whilst listening to the aforementioned tune, either sit back and be mesmerized by the shear might or headbang themselves into unconsciousness. Need more proof? Go watch Knut and Isis perform this gargantuan track live, together with six guitars In Geneva (yeah that’s the cue, head over to YouTube).
That being said, Knut is far removed from their outstanding 2002 release “Challenger.” The consensus on their follow-up LP “Terraformer” was hit or miss. Many disliked the added focus on ambiance and the incoherence it caused, but some liked the band’s willingness to step outside the box. In any form, Knut was taking a different path with their music and took plenty of time to think about their next release, that being “Wonder” which would be released five years later. It would seem as if Knut was trying to regain some of their past flare with this latest Hydra Head Records release but its overly-noodly and repetitious guitar-work, grind-like structure, and overall lack of substance make for an album that falls seriously short of its expectations.
First off, the work of guitarists Christian Valleise and Tim Robert-Charrue simply does not live up to stellar work found on the band's previous releases. The guitars just seems more out of place on “Wonder”. Many of the riffs are as technical as ever, but in many cases still very repetitious – making them stand out even more. The more volatile and mathy riffs clash with drummer Roderic Mounir’s style, who’s best left to shadowing Aaron Harris of Isis. Mounir’s drumming is still far from unspectacular but he will likely never have the technical prowess of a Chris Pennie, a Ben Koller, a Brann Dailor, or maybe even a Patrik Hultin (Burst) to make these types of songs work to their fullest potential.
Secondly, the meat of “Wonder” is delivered in very short bursts. Eight of the eleven tracks are less than four minutes long, while six of the tracks are only about two minutes in length. This up-tempo nature leaves only a few tracks for the band to explore their previously charted areas of atmosphere and ambiance, and even when they do they are frequently halted by gimmicks (namely fuzz) or just plain-old filler.
“Wonder” is just lacking substance in general. It does little that is original for the band and doesn’t do the band’s previous works justice. The powerful, harsh vocals of Dider Severin have returned in full force but the drumming has even less focus on flare and fills, the bass has come along for the ride, the guitars have overstepped their boundaries in some areas while become boring in others - and these critiques are just of the music that isn't obviously filler. All of this makes for a long awaited but disappointing release from the Swiss metal veterans.