Saturday 10 October 2015

Kowloon Walled City - Grievances (Album Review)

Release date: October 09th 2015. Label: Neurot Recordings/Gilead Media. Formats: CD/DD/Vinyl

Grievances - Tracklisting

1.Your Best Years 06:05
2.Grievances 06:38
3.Backlit 04:54
4.The Grift 03:47
5.White Walls 04:46
6.True Believer 06:01
7.Daughters and Sons 05:16

Band Members:

Scott Evans - voice, guitar.
Jon Howell - guitar.
Julia Lancer - drums.
Ian miller - bass.


I've not known about Kowloon Walled City for all that long. A Facebook chum shared the track "Diabetic Feet" and after a few seconds I was hooked. I all but immediately downloaded both "Gambling On The Richter Scale" and the frankly magnificent "Container Ships" and when I realised they had a new record on the way (and out on the immense Neurot Recordings) it felt like I was counting the days until I could hear it.

That day arrived. I downloaded the file, Transferred the record to my phone, put in my headphones and waited for that same kind of jaw dropping reaction I got the first time I heard Kowloon Walled City.

Let me tell you. I didn't get that feeling.

From the opening refrain of the first track "Your Best Years" it was immediately obvious I was listening to KWC due to the distinctive and beautiful sound they have (the same way Yob, or Conan have a sound that's synonymous with them) but it didn't have that initial punch of say "The Pressure Keeps Me Alive" or the aforementioned "Diabetic Feet".

This record is a very different beast. And it's one that took me a few listens to get. But I get it now. My God do I get it.

This seems a much deeper, bleaker, and maybe a more personal record? As bleak and oppressive as the city they are named after. After a few listens I would say that "Your Best Years" is a powerful and claustrophobic way to open a record. It confused me at first as there are more immediate songs on the record, but now it just makes perfect fucking sense.

This album is a journey, and like all journeys it's heading somewhere and every stop on the way is as important as the destination.

Title track "Grievances" is a similar, bleak affair with a sparse stripped back verse with an awesome barked vocal that reminds me of the glory days of bands like Helmet and Handsome at their grittiest.

"Backlit" is up next and had already been available to stream (though as I'm an awful human I forget via who) and is closer in spirit to my mind of some of the bands earlier works.

"The Grift" is another big hitter, full to bursting with massive riffs and hooks and vocals that convey desperation, anger and some real feeling to them which really brings the track alive. It's a bit like Converge fisting Quicksand. Turn it up and just let yourself get lost in this one.

"White Walls" just crawls out of the speakers oozing menace and heartfelt rage as the drums crash around freely over the guitars until about 1.12 when a series of jarring stabs kick in as Scott Evans bellows over the top "White Walls/Feel White/Send A Message"

Around about the third or fourth time I listened through to this record, something just clicked and I fell in love with it just I had done with their previous albums. It seems each song as the records moves to it's conclusion intensifies in both heaviness, and meaning.

True Believer" is no exception to this and whilst is a slower track and a little less furious than the tracks that have gone before still packs a hefty punch.

The album concludes on "Daughters And Sons" which showcases the band brilliantly as that familiar almost clean, but somehow dirty guitar rages all over it.

Just over half way, the drums and bass take centre stage for a minute with a delicious repetitive but effective passage as the song kind of just fades away. I'm listening to the album while I write this and honestly, I could fucking cry. But in the very best way.

You know what? In many ways I'm glad I didn't get this straight away, as this is a beautiful and challenging album full of hope, menace and feeling. And sometimes you need to work to get your rewards and I promise you this album is full of them.

Words by Simon Ross Williams

Thanks to Earsplit PR and Lauren at Rarely Unable PR for the promo. Grievances is available to buy on CD from Neurot Recordings and Vinyl from Gilead Media.