The gift of existentialism isn’t so much the ability to question as a free agent, an autonomous being that (some say) must develop their own purpose but, rather a Sartr inspired crucial step in self-actualization: Development of self-assessment through the realization that the greater entirety of human existence, be it society or any other collaborative faux-agreement of colonization, is entirely indifferent to the individual. Go ahead and spend a lifetime figuring the ‘meaning’ of existence, it must be so impossibly tailored and sewn to your ‘self’ that it could never be properly communicated. Hence the real gift that comes in the form of the great vacuum of highly personal and complex rock music. The forward-thinking, capable hands of projects like Lafayette, Louisiana duo Radiant Knife communicate some greater peaking form of existential research, sharpened with mildly broadening post-genre appeal, that takes current musical timbres and stretches that mutant language into one ecstatic sludge metal trip.
From what I gather guitarist/vocalist Stephen Sheppert first bore teeth in the late 90’s inspired by the genius of Steve Austin (Today is the Day) and Unsane in the long forgotten but entirely (in my opinion) canon Icepick Revival. You can hear those noise rock/math metal ambitions refine as post-Icepick Revival instrumental progressive metal project Collapsar appears in the mid-2000’s as technical prowess was ‘in’ as much as it ever was around that time. From there the trail runs cold for a few years and Sheppert re-emerged from an apparently mollifying vision quest alongside drummer Dave Leonard in a self-produced, and luxuriously chill, post-whatever progressive sludge/rock duo Raedon Kong. Their debut ‘We Are the Worms’ (2011) took 70’s progressive rock influenced structural dynamics and married them with the early 90’s noise rock/post-hardcore anti-schism. The point where things got fuzzy, feel-good on Raedon Kong‘s self-titled EP in 2013 would be a breaking point and made way for a newer, heavier collaboration between Sheppert and drummer Greg Travasos.
Without a doubt Radiant Knife‘s self-titled debut in 2017 was critically well-received as it defied the jazzy, milquetoast grin of Raedon Kong and brought rhythmic and sonic aggro-intent positively compared to groups like Intronaut, Mastodon, and I personally didn’t hear it; I’d have pointed to Fudge Tunnel, Hark or Floor first but it is all relative. The intention was immediately clear a heavy groove driven by modern sludge/noise rock with some light progressive metal influenced play with tensile rhythms not unlike a more ‘metal’ leaning Boss Keloid. Erase all expectations for their follow-up ‘Science Fiction’ if you’re still in love with that debut because this is not only a superior product but easily the most instantly gratifying tracklist I’ve heard from any of Sheppert‘s projects to date.
The growling sludge riffs and starship alarms-worthy synth of “Stereo Lords” go off like an inspired Turbowolf track and not only is this jam heavier than ever but Radiant Knife no longer feel like such a ‘genre entry’ band but a conscious effort to stand out as they spread deeper, more complex ideas across a fully juiced fifty minute progressive sludge metal album. Starting with “Wasted Minds” it becomes clear that not only are these two musicians more tightly wound together by an order of magnitude, but they’re going to take their time developing each groove and riff. What comes across is less an intent to perform and impress and more a genuine effort to put into motion those existentialist intentions in the form of extended rhythmic strands. Consider it a melty, prog-rock stream of Torche-worthy production, the space-faring adventurousness of Today is the Day‘s ‘Supernova’ and a glowering mix of atmospheric sludge/modern doom metal’s search for meaning.
Now as exciting as ‘Science Fiction’ is it did start to drag on a bit after I’d become more familiar with it’s contents. Around the sixth or seventh listen I found I was ready to go dig around for other similar bands; A great run for any modern sludge album but I think they could have hooked me in a bit more if they’d kept up some of that early pacing as the album tapers off sleepily. Now keep in mind I’m reviewing the full digital version and the tracklist is different on the vinyl LP (omits “Wasted Minds” and “All We Are is All We Know”, but includes the full 8 songs on the digital version) so your mileage will vary if you’re sticking to vinyl because some key tracks will be missing but it’ll be a more concise listen at around 39 minutes. Radiant Knife‘s discography is easy to recommend to fans of progressive sludge and modern stoner/sludge variants as ‘Science Fiction’ is a remarkable refinement upon the style of their debut.
|Released||August 8, 2018|
|BUY/LISTEN on Radiant Knife’s Bandcamp!||Follow Radiant Knife on Facebook|
|Genre||Progressive Sludge Metal|
Imagined future schema. 4.0/5.0
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