Kowloon Walled City


Written by: AP on 31/08/2016 19:48:29

Deriving their moniker from Hong Kong’s infamous urban settlement which lived in lawless debauchery until its demolition in 1993-1994, certain expectations might be formed as to the style pursued by Kowloon Walled City. But neither deviance nor excess have never been part of the San Francisco, CA -based quartet’s palette; rather, it is the droning minimalism and caustic twists on post-metal pioneered by Isis and Neurosis that the band is fascinated by, with the artwork of this latest outing “Grievances” providing a good visual depiction of their sound.

The music is gray and downtrodden, its anguished mood heightened by the industrialised monotony of frontman Scott Evans’ voice, and the emptiness into which his and Jon Howell’s guitar riffs seem to dissipate, and wherein they resonate endlessly, without hope. The lyricism likewise offers little respite as Evans tackles the physical, emotional and social anxieties of the modern workplace through crushing verse à la ”White walls feel right. Send a message. One hand left, one cut to shreds. Stay seated, stay tense. Send a message.”, making the otherwise digestible 37 minutes that “Grievances” occupies feel like gruelling eternity. Whether that effect is desirable comes down to taste; the record is neither accessible nor easy to listen to, but objectively speaking, its strategy of placing the listener in the kind of mundane absurdity most of us can relate to is followed through nearly to perfection. You really feel the atmosphere.

And even though glacial rhythms and clotted, sludge laden riffs — and the slabs of dissonance those leave dangling overhead — form the brunt of Kowloon Walled City’s impetus, songs like “Grievances”, “The Grift” and “Daughters and Sons” still manage to wring parts of it into a kind of grandeur that stays with you. The result is mechanistic, yet melancholy; bleak, but bare. The album has you willingly frozen in distress, craving the discomfort it creates. But at the same time, the feat of remembering key moments from “Grievances” is a virtual impossibility once its grip loosens and the last notes ring out. The cheerless lumbering is too constant, too unforgiving to form a lasting impact, even if the album manages to capture a feeling with great consistency. As such, “Grievances” has the paradoxical character of being arresting, but also frustrating in its refusal to recreate that intrigue in your memory.


Download: The Grift, White Walls, Daughters and Sons
For the fans of: Isis, Old Man Gloom, Sumac, Neurosis
Listen: Facebook

Release date 09.10.2015
Neurot Recordings / Gilead Media

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