Review: KOWLOON WALLED CITY – “Grievances”

Grievances cover art

Although the band has been active for a little while now, Kowloon Walled City didn’t make huge waves in the heavy music community until the release of Container Ships in 2012. While its predecessor, Gambling on The Richter Scale, was a fine piece of forward-thinking sludge metal, it was Container Ship‘s pairing of towering sludge and noise rock aesthetic and its crisp yet punishing production that it made it a favorite among metal fans and music journalists alike. The album was a unique take on the sludge and doom genres and left everyone that came in contact with it craving more. Afterwards, the Californians went into hiding to craft and perfect the follow-up to their critically-lauded sophomore LP. Kowloon Walled City finally emerged from their studio lair this year to unleash Grievances, their long-awaited third full-length and product of nearly three years of writing. Grievances takes the foundation of Container Ships and creates something new yet familiar out of it. With this new recording, the San Francisco quartet continues to be ahead of the game.

Much like its predecessor, Grievances features seven tracks that collectively run under 40 minutes in length. While the runtime may be on the short side, the record is so dense and sprawling that it feels longer. “Sprawling” is probably the best way to describe this leviathan of a record. The band incorporate more spacing and drawn out passages in each song, without them extending over seven minutes in length. Storming tracks like “50’s Dad” or “Wrong Side of History” from Container Ships are not as prevalent on this record as the band opts for more slower, moody compositions.

Grievances begins with the towering “Your Best Years” and the record only descends further into metallic melancholia from there. Somber, melodic chords initiate a downtrodden march towards depressive territory as massive bass lines grumble underneath. Simple yet effective leads pierce through buzzing feedback, drums pummel the listener steadily and Scott Evans’ commanding yells tie everything together into one emotionally heavy package. The album’s slow-burning title track follows to complete this emotional one-two punch to the gut. The near seven minute track weaves together repetitive, melodic riffs for over three minutes before the song churns out bellowing, down-tuned attacks in abundance. The song’s hypnotically repetitive, punishing climax is powerful enough to crush skulls with its sheer sonic weight. Fast forward a bit and the band unleash a massive beating with the album’s fastest tune, “The Grift”. The song conjures battering grooves, disjointed melodies and cataclysmic drumming that all work together to beat the listener into a bloody pulp. Grievances‘ most sinister composition, “White Walls”, follows shortly after. Claustrophobic, menacing chords crawl towards chugging annihilation and a climax of city leveling dissonant riffs in this blood-boiling number. The storming “Daughters and Sons” brings Grievances to a satisfying close. Stampedes of groove-laden riffs collide head on with glimmering melodies and earth-shattering dissonance during the track’s initial three-minute incendiary procession. The track eventually dies down into an empty and somber cycle of introspective chords that ring out and dissolve into nothingness as the record ends.

Kowloon Walled City have arguably created their magnum opus with Grievances. While Container Ships‘ aggressive beatings will be missed, there is something even heavier about this new LP. The drawn out, sprawling passages and overall atmosphere of melancholy, combined with the band’s unique noisy sludge, transcends the sludge and doom genres and is heavy on multiple levels. It will be interesting to see how the band manages to top this auditory behemoth.

AARating10

Rating: 10/10
Label: Neurot Recordings
Release Date: October 9, 2015
Favorite Tracks: “Grievances”, “White Walls” “True Believer” and “Daughters and Sons”
For Fans Of: Thou, Fight Amp, Northless, Harvey Milk and Neurosis

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