Following hot on the heels of last year’s welcome remix and reissue of 2013 debut album “Interstice”, KNEEL mastermind Pedro Mau has wasted no time conjuring a blistering follow-up. For those unfamiliar with this project, we are firmly in ultra-modern extreme metal territory here, with elements of death and thrash metal, brutal hardcore and even industrial and math rock swirling around in the Portuguese soloist’s sonic cauldron. The result is, in essence, an unpredictable but gloriously precise new strain of groove metal, with all the syncopated violence and techy flair that such an endeavor necessarily entails these days.
But Mau is a great songwriter too, and there’s enough diversity on “Ailment” to belie its relatively straightforward, monotonal sonics and sense of streamlined cohesion.
At its best, this slams so hard it’ll knock your mask off. Opener “Qualm” is a monstrous, lumbering entry point, as Mau harnesses the serrated-edge power of the darkest thrash and welds it to a wild rhythmic framework of his own fiendish design. “Interim” flails and crunches with polyrhythmic panache, equal parts MESHUGGAH math metal and pitch-black, murderous hardcore. “DYS” is obscenely heavy, as KNEEL drop to a funereal pace, as sledgehammer savage as any downtempo deathcore band, and twice as texturally intriguing. Another obvious standout, “Bellicose”, takes off with the full-pelt fury of the finest crossover ‘core, before morphing into a chuggernaut of epic proportions. Despite the fact that this was all, mostly, created by one man, KNEEL nearly always sound like a real band, and one that will do serious damage to your neck muscles.
The irony, of course, is that KNEEL doesn’t yet exist as a living, breathing live entity. But these songs would destroy venues: at times, it’s like LAMB OF GOD remixed by NAILBOMB; at others, KNEEL pump out the most virulent, compelling sludge imaginable. It’s all laudably heavy and destructive, with even the programmed drums exuding swagger and swing. Put simply, “Ailment” is an exhilarating declaration of individuality and a bruising salute to the power of churning, chunky riffs.