22 October 2013

We Are Knuckle Dragger - The Drone

Oh my how have we grown.  We Are Knuckle Dragger are one of a current crop of bands from Newcastle-upon-Tyne who are making lots of noise (in the case of WAKD, this is literally).  After two very successful EP's, last year they released Tit For Tat (cleverly linked here) which I reviewed and as I stated at the time I found a little disappointing.  I make no song and dance about it, but I was expecting quite a bit from that album; especially since it was recorded with Steve Albini. But that was the last record and now we are onto the new record.  This album was recorded with Ross Robinson, who was responsible for a lot of the harsher end of the Nu-Metal revolution of years gone by (Korn, Slipknot, Amen, Soulfly, etc).  Now whilst the Albini production should have been a natural fit, Ross Robinson is a strange one in someways - intriguing but not the first name I would have thought that they would have worked with.  So how has the producer of Vanilla Ice get on with these guys and did he bring the best out of them.

From the beginning, this is a much richer record, the production has more depth and contrast and everything seems more focused whilst still having that random sound which is such a big element to their overall sound.  Honestly when I heard the opening riff of "This Better Be Life Threatening Norman" the smile that came to my face could have matched Zippy from the UK children's TV show Rainbow.  It is a fascinating mash of riff, destruction, noise and head-fuckery; aka We Are Knuckle Dragger all over then.  Coming up afterwards is "Starting Strength" which has a pounding riff to start with then the brilliant sort of breakdown which is what I have seen them do live and captured here to great effect. Then we move onto "Class of 94", this is not a heart warming ballad about missing happy school memories.  If this was a school, it would be Nuke 'Em High.  With a hypnotic riff and drumming that drives the song to an equally mental chorus, I can say this is one of the best tracks on this album.

The charmingly titled "Bunch of Fucking Mutants" is next which makes for a much more spooky and eerie experience which is driven by the rumbling bass which would scare the weak in the audience to their spines, until they change direction again and have another break down moment.  This one does not work as much for me, but it is still effective and keeping the interest up.  Following on for this is "Sucker" which makes for interesting listening, having a similar effect on the musical senses as a mallet does on a ripe tomato or a glass window - there is going to be damage, but it will make a cool image.  There is a fire in the belly of this song which makes it one of the highlights of the album.  "The Moon On A Stick" (a phrase that has been passed around for years) is next and the off time signatures and messed up riffs just make this a beautiful piece of music.  I'm sure I could watch them play this and I would not have a clue how they did it, it is strange and wondrous (and over far too soon).  Then we have "Learning By Doing" which is the weakest track for me here, but it is much better for me than quite a lot of 'Tit For Tat'. 

Entering into the final section of the album, we start with "Here Is Your Shit Sandwich" - obviously it is not going to be a radio hit, but that is the radio's loss to be honest. This slice of bonkers splintered punk is fluid and sublime; it is composed and only lets the aggression out when needed.  Like the rest of this album, it is more measured in its attacks.  As is proven with "Flapjack The Ripper" which brings around the crazies and let's in charge of the control desk chanting 'Monkey see, monkey do', it is the perfect set up for the final song of the album - "Funhouse".  Now this is when the strange really kicks in and makes for a more interesting starting of which a drum attack and flipping into a slow menacing aggressive hook that sounds like old prize fighter taking no prisoners; then it brings in some strange noises which loop into a cluster fuck of noise that has this man smiling like a village idiot when the cider is handed out - priceless.

Well, I think it is safe to say that this is a massive improvement to their last album,  From the stunning art work , to the brilliant production job by Ross Robson (and I never thought I would say that out of the 00's) and finally to the band themselves - this is the album I was hoping for the last time.  This time it is an attack and experience that is stunning, it is in line with their shows and early demos which held so much promise.  If this album is not a game changer for them, I will be extremely surprised.  They are about to do a few shows around England and Ireland, if they come near you check them out.  They are also playing the next instalment of GNAW in Newcastle in November with Waheela, Palehorse and others.  But most of all get a copy of this album.

10 out of ten - this is proof that there is a God.

You can purchase the album from Spotify here

You can visit the band's website here (where you can purchase directly from the band anyway)

You can listen to the album here on Spotify

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