For me, they are still one of the most mind-blowing and eruptive bands to come out of Boston with a volcanic roar that the lava itself flows rapidly quick of showing no sign of stopping to raise hell. That band is Bent Knee. With three albums in the can, they still keep going for more. And with them being on the road with bands such as Thank You Scientist and with The Dillinger Escape Plan for their farewell tour, they have come a long, long, long way. And the six-piece show that they can take their music higher with their fourth album, Land Animal.
They are on a new label with InsideOut Music. To me, that’s very interesting to be on a label with bands such as Knifeworld, Haken, Karmakanic, Beardfish, and Ayreon. I wouldn’t say it’s like winning the Super Bowl, but it’s a big leap forward from moving from one label to another. But let’s get straight into Land Animal. I’m going to say this right now, but this is one of the most powerful and scariest album I’ve ever listened to. It shows that Bent Knee will keep on going for more of the long and winding roads ahead.
Terror Bird kicks the door open with Gavin’s intensive drumbeats along with Ben’s guitar making it sound like a clock ticking followed by an eerie quick second of the synths going into a lullaby. And then Ben hits you in the gut as he channels the vibes of Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood. He then takes you into the heavens with some of his psychedelic moments on Hole.
It is an electronic alternative arrangement with some pumping sounds as Courtney Swain’s vocals go on high alert for a brief second as the lyrics deal of finding the strength to keep going while the stand-out track Holy Ghost gives Baum makes the violin pluck as if the pin has already dropped. This is a very killer composition because Courtney takes you beyond of the reflections of the mirror as if Beauty is showing their dark side by taking the mask off.
The lyrics are raw, tight and front of your face by giving you the facts; “Oh nothing charges me like the night/It is like good god/I was born to write hey, wait/What about my body though?/I got to find a way to get more glitter/more sass/more time/wine and dining/kissing ass.” You can’t write amazing lyrics like that. You just can’t. But now you can. And again, it hits you right in the face as if they are giving you a gigantic reality check.
The mid-section becomes a cat-and-mouse sequence between Ben Levin, Jessica Kion’s Bass, Vince’s ‘80s video games synth, and Gavin setting up the mysterious case of the grizzly crime scene on the drums. Courtney isn’t trying to be center of attention, but she wants to make sure the band are a team and keeping the machine alive. She pours her heart and soul in her vocals as if the character is ready to break out of this madness.
Bent Knee take a break on the first three minutes and fifty-seven seconds on Insides In. This shows their softer side with a mellowing jazz ballad as it has these Tori Amos lyrical structures. The classical string section has this ‘50s romantic sound before the last couple of minutes become a booming nightmare as synths become harp sounds, Ben’s guitar chords are explosive, and it sets up the tone that is happening with an unexpected twist by ending with a chilling drone.
Jessica Kion comes on center stage as her Bass line on Those Hands, sets up the scenario of the character’s life becoming more worried, depressed, being in danger, and all alone. And while they aren’t around to help you, you have to deal with the facts of growing up and facing family life. It is walking towards the deeper tunnels between classical music and alternative post-rock.
The title-track begins with some string sections straight out of the 1960s TV series, The Fugitive that blares out of nowhere as if it was done by the great Bernard Herrmann. It’s almost at times that the lyrics are dealt through the mind of a little mouse sneaking through the house for some crumbs in those sections through Courtney’s vocals. You can absolutely feel the vocals, stirring sections, and the band going on a dangerous tight rope.
Time Deer feels as if it is the third installment of the continuation of the tracks between Way Too Long and Leak Water. It has this Roy Orbison-sque punch of early to mid-‘60s vibe featuring some action-packed/dramatic sequence in the last minute and thirty-two seconds featuring Gavin’s galloping drums. Stomping intro, has this ‘60s girl’s group essence in the sound of going into parallel universes.
And then Courtney almost goes into the vocal arrangements through the Dalek-sque arrangement as the finale Boxes features dooming bass synths and drums as if its straight out of Alex Proyas 1998 film, Dark City featuring a haunting abrupt end as there’s dead silence for the last seven minutes to close the album. The two bonus tracks contain the title track going through a surreal ‘50s house of a dystopian effect going into a haywire effect as if it is all over the place done by the remix of Ben Levin.
The Sylvia Massy mix of Way Too Long which sounds like it was recorded on a tape recorder, is a different take. It’s menacing, punchy, and volcanic than what was on the original version on Shiny Eyed Babies. It may divide a line in the sand whether they will admire Bent Knee’s new album or not, but it grows on you. However, Land Animal is definitely on my soon to be top 25 albums of the year so far.
There’s going to be some gigantic competition on which albums will be on there. This one is definitely going to be on there. Bent Knee never disappoints me. Again, Land Animal is one of the scariest and eruptive albums I’ve listened to. And you need to check it out. Worth recommending.