The term darkened hardcore gets thrown around quite frequently to describe a specific type of sound. You hear the term and you think metallic sounding guitars with aggressive growling vocals, maybe some blast beats thrown in for good measure. So, when Milwaukee-based Knaaves bring these elements out in their debut album The Serpent’s Root you could be forgiven for thinking that this is simply just another darkened, metallic hardcore band. What stops this getting lost in the crowd however is that after just one listen you can hear how pissed off the band are and at the expense of sounding cheesy there are some truly dark elements to what they are tackling on this record.
In some respects, Knaaves do live up to the tried and tested formula as opening title track ‘The Serpent’s Root’ kicks in with heavily distorted guitars and brutal screamed vocals to set the tone. But, what the four-piece do very cleverly is to never stick to one pattern when it comes to their song structure. In the opening track when vocalist Andy Parmann is screaming ‘Can you see the power now? Can you feel the glory?’ the song twists into a more traditional feeling hardcore track than what it started out being.
The tone of Jamie Kerwin’s guitar has a very clear Black Breath influence to it, but there are odd pinches and distorted tones which remove it far enough away from worship to homage. Even though the themes throughout the quartet’s music may be shrouded in negativity in some shape or form, this attitude lends itself to creating something rather positive.
Admittedly, not every single track on the seven-track record necessarily hit the mark, but when they do they leave one hell of an impact. In ‘Matriarch’ for example the band really come into their own. Venomous vocals, blistering drums and absolutely brutal shredding guitars. If you wanted a three minute snap shot of Knaaves this is it.
As a way to perfectly bookend the record, ‘Ouroboros’ is the perfect foil to title track ‘The Serpent’s Root’. Whereas the album’s opener may have had elements of quote-unquote generic metallic hardcore, the closer is anything but. Weird industrial sounds reverberate throughout as Parmann pours his heart out in the track, bringing his own aggression right down at points. This is a an album which is unapologetically pissed off, and rightly so. Without doubt, Knaaves are band to watch out for.
The Serpent’s Root is out now and can be purchased here.
Words: Tim Birkbeck