Knut – Challenger

3 out of 5

Label: Hydra Head

Produced by: Knut, Serge Morattel

While I would say Knut have always excelled at being a sounds-like band – hardcore notes from bands here and there, repackaging them tightly and performing them with gusto – that’s a tightrope on which to balance, as it’s an approach already without much identity, and slipping to one side or the other removes it rather completely. And Challenge is a disc where it feels like Knut has jumped off the rope, and is just kind of walking alongside, occasionally shaking the thing to test its strength, but staying on the more sure-footed path all the same.

And so: lots of Botch; ISIS experimentation; maybe some dashes of early Converge punk. While I normally absolutely vibe off of Knut’s energized recreations of these things, the mimicry feels pretty absolute at points, and the way this is recorded / mastered – vocals always distorted; the thrash beyond a wall of noise – creates a general remove that downplays the intensity, even if you’re still somewhat mindlessly headbanging to the riffage.

What emerges on this outing are the moments where the group slows things down, and does some sludgy, Cavity-esque instrumental / ambient stretches; this stuff is sometimes the distraction between more compelling tunes on Knut discs, but it’s more strategically employed and spread out on Challenger to make it feel like a necessary part of the listen, and is a lot “clearer” than the other songs, which somewhat lurch around for hooks without finding them.

Which doesn’t render Challenger without merit – it’s quality hardcore, and obviously in line with other stuff you probably like. It’s just rather unremarkable otherwise.