Sunday, 4 August 2013

REVIEW: Crash of Rhinos - Knots

Derby based Crash of Rhinos return with their sophomore LP Knots, the follow up to 2011’s much loved Distal.  Over the past couple of years they have gained a fevered following and secured some high-profile support slots with legendary bands such as Raein and Braid. Most recently, they announced their signing to a Topshelf Records in the US, which has undoubtedly helped them lift their profile to the next level. So with that in mind, a lot rests on the shoulders of this release and the band could be forgiven for feeling the pressure. However, their unique brand of emo-tinged post-hardcore seems so natural to them that they could easily be mistaken for the one of the forbearers of the scene that they fit so easily into.
Knots is a mature and measured release that has clearly been lovingly crafted and laboured over. As a set of songs, they are more refined and thoughtful than previous efforts. The band are not afraid to explore different tempos and dynamics throughout. With Distal, you could rely on a quiet section eventually giving way to big, noisy section, whereas here, often the quiet moments are allowed to linger.

One of the first things I noticed about this record in comparison to Distal is the amount of room in the recording and production. Each instrument is allowed it’s own space to breathe and contribute, giving them space to find the right way to lock together. As a result, their sound has lost some of the urgency and chaos that made Distal such a pleasure to get lost in, but luckily this is not to the detriment of the new material. One of the standout tracks, Sum of all Parts, is a superb example of this, with a stripped back opening that leads seamlessly into a hook laden chorus, with a great 90s influenced riff that could have come straight out of a Slip era Quicksand song. The guitars are almost clean throughout, so when the distorted guitar part is added to the mix it makes the section stand out and grab your attention.

Most of the songs pass the 4-minute mark, but generally, the song structures are relatively straightforward throughout, with less twists and turns than before. That’s not to say that this albums lacks complexity; with two guitars and two basses to work with, there are still layers of lines and riffs to lose yourself in. And with five voices in the band, some of the vocal lines, harmonies and some gruff shout-along moments are absolutely awesome. There are plenty hooks that will work their way into your head and stay with you for days, with the biggest earworms living in Opener, Impasses and the absolutely epic closer Speeds of Ocean Greyhounds. One slight criticism is that occasionally the switching of vocalists can be a bit jarring, and sometimes you can’t help but think that one vocalist might have handled a certain line slightly better here and there.

Despite this album only being a couple of weeks old, I can’t help but wonder how Crash of Rhinos will develop with their next release. Will they move closer to a more mainstream orientated sound or try and recapture some of the frantic energy found on their debut? Either way, it’s bound to be interesting and I can’t wait to see what they come up with, and in the meantime I'm more than happy to have Knots to keep me company.

- R.R.

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