Review Summary: Gritty rock with an industrial touch...
One of New Zealand’s finest hidden gems, Cairo Knife Fight have been active for a decade now, never failing to deliver excellent music. Right before the release of 2015’s The Colossus
, drummer/front man Nick Gaffaney relocated to Los Angeles. There, he was joined full time by guitar player George Pajon Jr. (The Black Eyed Peas), who already contributed to the above mentioned record. After sporadic tour dates and other commitments, the two quietly worked on fresh ideas. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised to hear a new album would already be released this year.
is an explosive affair, presenting 7 fully fleshed tracks separated by just as many interludes. It’s an interesting experiment, yet I would have traded the latter for a couple more tunes. They aren’t a bother, due to providing smooth transitions, however, there’s nothing special about them either. The band’s music has always shared an intense, often haunting atmosphere and this record is no different. Right from the start, the galloping rhythm of ‘A-Nine’, alongside its sharp guitars pummel ahead, while Nick’s volatile vocals range from lower pitched croons to killer falsettos. The man is a powerhouse, so the style shift that left the prolonged jams behind to focus on succinct cuts only augments our journey. First single, ‘A-Six’ is a quirky ditty boasting a sick groove courtesy of Pajon, plus the layered choruses are downright infectious. There’s a gritty, urban feel to this record I really enjoy. Industrial touches are omnipresent, whether they are audible through samples/loops or as effects altering the main instruments’ sound. Nevertheless, the focus is on a trademark rock ‘n’ roll on steroids.
‘A-Four’ borrows some Songs for the Dead
-era Queens of the Stone Age licks interrupted by a mesmerizing mid-break. The manic attacks are even more welcomed in between such moody passages. Cairo Knife Fight have a swift approach intertwining melodic moments with abrasive ones. ‘A-Seven’ switches between “broken” & pounding beats, whereas Gaffaney sings with a lovely, soothing tone, only to jump to shouting the next second. The entire track is a fun rollercoaster ride, moving from tame riffs to spastic, occasionally crushing ones. Pajon’s tone is very versatile too (his rig is well documented online for those curious), often breaking into a processed distortion, enhancing that industrial vibe.
Moving to Los Angeles and living there through difficult times (political & social-wise), gave Nick an opportunity to detail his opinions on America. The uneasy ‘A-Three’ complains about corruption (much like opener ‘A-Nine’), again going everywhere between haunting clean guitar chords to vexed riffage. There’s a lot of tension blown off and this makes for a really strong tune. Heavily contrasting ‘A-Nine’ is ‘A-Two’, feeling like a daydream next to it. The swaying grooves as well as its pop sensibilities are addictive. The anticlimactic, reverse reverbed guitar solo offers a brief, weirdly enjoyable quiet moment before returning to the glam-infested chorus. As we rapidly reach to the end of this passionate LP, we are treated with a dramatic, but powerful ballad. ‘A-Eight’ is like a comedown from the preceding barn burners, however, this isn’t a pretty finale. The murky guitars border on dissonant at times, while the front man pours his heart out. The damaged, mournful tone turns into anger as they add layers towards the end. The paranoid guitar solo soars and Gaffaney hits some of the highest notes here. At first, this song seems like the most straightforward of all, revealing its depth upon repeated listens.
is a more cohesive record, because unlike The Colossus
, it was mainly composed by two people. With a stable line-up, it also offers a tighter sound. As the band rips through the tracks, you can’t help but get immersed into the visceral atmosphere created. The only issue I have with the LP is its length. The interludes are okay, yet two or three more songs would have leveled up its impact. There’s just about enough music here to lure you back and I assume this was Cairo Knife Fight’s intention. Anyway, if we receive new material every two years from now on, I am happy with this amount of output as well. They remain to me one of the coolest acts out there and I hope they maintain this quality. Dig it!