I read other reviews for my own enjoyment, as well as learning how to write better because this is all new to me and something I’m grateful I’m able to do (thanks Lee for giving me a shot!). I’ve noticed that many focus on objective views and keep personal feelings out. I understand that and I’ve even contemplated writing more in that style, but then I thought, all I want to do is talk about how much I love the music and the new bands I’m discovering. Other than my wonderful wife, no one wants to hear me talk about how the clean tone of the guitar on track four at the 2:48 mark is the best I’ve ever heard (and I’ve tried). So, I’m going to fanboy out on this review because I know (hope?) whoever reads this is as much of a fan as I am.
Enter Kowloon Walled City. I jumped at this promo faster than a cheetah jumping a gazelle. Although I’ve only recently discovered them, when I saw the pre-order of their new album Piecework available on Neurot Recordings webstore, I was drawn in by the artwork and because it’s on Neurosis’ label I thought they must be good. I’ve now backtracked their fifteen year history and there hasn’t been a moment Kowloon Walled City hasn’t been playing in my house, car, work, walk from car to work, etc. I have become obsessed and consumed by their music, so get ready for the fanboy review of a lifetime!
The opening track shares the name with the album and Piecework explodes out of the speakers with forceful energy. The mix of clean and distorted guitars gives the music a sense of clarity and the slow heavy chugging carries you through an outstanding opener.
I don’t typically discuss lyrics, mostly because they can be hard to understand. I don’t want to quote the wrong lyric because I misheard it. Luckily Kowloon Walled City knew my weakness and provided a lyric sheet. Utopian follows suit and like the title track, with a powerful intro. The slow yet thunderous drums of Dan Sneedon lays down the foundation. Lead vocalist Scott Evans howls ‘when their ground let go, they never came back. Yeah, we create calm, stability but the backdrop showed’. This is a standout and powerful lyric because it has multiple meanings for me. From big picture politics of these ‘fun’ days to the simple day to day life and how people treat each other. I typically don’t pay attention to lyrics from reasons above but, thanks to Evans, I will be trying harder to seek out the poetry that lies beneath.
Oxygen Tent starts off with simplicity. The three note guitar riff, the steady beat and the bass that kicks in a few seconds in all work perfectly together and sound amazing. When Evans begins singing, the band kicks in that elevates the songs intensity. The song weaves through the heavy and clean seamlessly and end the song on a strong note.
The epic wall of sound created by these four members is silenced for brief moments when the clean guitar gently rings through the speakers…
Remember when I said no one wants to hear me talk about the clean tones on track four at the 2:48 mark being the best I’ve heard? Well, the clean tones on track four (You Had A Plan) at the 2:48 mark is the best I’ve heard. I’ve tried to get that sound myself, it’s clean yet dark sounding and when the band kicks back in seconds later, the distorted guitar accompanied by the pounding drums and chugging bass is such a perfect contrast to the dark clean quiet sounds, it gives me chills.
Splicing opens with the ever so subtle breaking up clean tone. Again, the song weaves through controlled chaos and calming cleans with ease. I love it. At 3:15 the song goes back to just guitars and the distortion is kicked up a little for a heavier tone than the intro. The dynamics on these songs are unreal. Bands like Neurosis, YOB, Russian Circles, US Christmas all share in the dark clean, raging heaviness I love, Kowloon Walled City fits perfectly in with that, and probably why they’re on Neurot Recordings.
When We Fall Through The Floor appears second to last on the album. ‘We fall through the floor, we can’t come back. Set by hand, bad news moves fast. So familiar, what’s hidden in the floor’. These powerful lyrics close out this song. For me personally, it seems to reach back to Utopian with similar themes of falling through the ground. Lyrics can be interpreted in infinite ways and can even change for the same person depending on what path life currently takes you on. I feel there’s a reason Kowloon Walled City has returned at this specific time after six years of silence.
Lampblack closes this album. It is a fantastic closer and encompasses all that I love from the previous tracks into one grand song. The epic wall of sound created by these four members is silenced for brief moments when the clean guitar gently rings through the speakers, allowing a moment to reflect. Scott Evans and Jon Howell have synced up their guitar tones and melodies flawlessly, while Ian Miller controls the low end and adds in some outstanding flourishes throughout. Dan Sneddon holds it all together with his steady tempo and adding some perfectly placed fills without getting carried away. An epic closer for an epic album.
Kowloon Walled City very quickly rose up my ranks of influential bands nearing the top. Every listen makes me want to pick up a guitar and play. I’m saddened to think I hadn’t heard of this band until recently, but I’m happy to have a few albums to listen back to while they’re still making new epic music. And since I’m writing this on Bandcamp Friday Eve, I have a few albums to purchase in the morning!
Scribed by: Josh Schneider