I’m getting exhausted writing this, and I’m sure you are reading it, but we’re in the midst of one of the toughest stretches most of us ever have experienced, but for some folks, it’s been a bigger level of hell than you can imagine. I understand some of that because my family essentially has been shredded, and even I have not had it as bad as some other people.
This comes up based on “Piecework,” the great new record from Kowloon Walled City, a favorite of ours who have operated under too many radars for too long. While lyrically the songs jump all over, inspired by various musicians and writers, as well as computer science and security, the fact is the album came to be when guitarist/vocalist Scott Evans was dealing with his father’s death. He took solace and lessons from the various women who have had major roles in his life, one being his maternal grandmother who worked at a shirt factory in Kentucky for 40 years as she raised five kids. The album’s title quite obviously is dedicated to her. Themes of death and loss, aging, and family come into play, and the band—Evans is joined by guitarist John Howell, bassist Ian Miller, and drummer Dan Sneddon–ease into their doomy noise rock, getting in and out in about a half hour but leaving their heavy mark on your heart and psyche for sure.
The title track opens the record with thick drubbing, the vocals yowling, which is a familiar component that makes the band feel so comfortable in the heart. The playing slices through as the guitars rinse wounds, the vocals tap at your head, and things trudge, slowly bruising before bleeding away. “Utopian,” partially inspired by Kim Stanley Robinson’s sci-fi novel Red Mars, is even heavier with the bass plodding away. There is misery in the melodies before things briefly work into calmer waters before the storm punches back. The howls pick up the intensity, the bass hammers, and the track bows out to the night. “Oxygen Tent” begins clean with the drums digging the path and then the drubbing arriving as the guitars unhinge their jaws. Dark clouds cover any hint of light as the vocals get punchier, the rumbling intensifies in your chest, and things come to a pummeling end.
“You Had a Plan” has guitars trickling over rocks as Evans’ bark explodes, and the watery ease works its way toward trouble. Leads soar into the atmosphere, harsh howls bruise, and the final notes ring out. “Splicing” is dreary and slurry as it dawns, and the bass chugs again, working toward all-star status on this album. The guitars cut through and increase the already bustling emotion, and then a brief stretch of desolation is jarred by steely guitars, splattering before pounding out. “When We Fall Through the Floor” lumbers as the playing flexes its muscles, and the thickening heat starts working its way through the cracks. “What’s hidden in the floor?” Evans calls repeatedly as the guitars lap and lather in doomy juices, and the drums stand alone as the track fades. “Lampblack” is the closer and opens in sullen mood, with the guitars beginning to churn and smoke. “You’ll never get away that way,” Evans accuses, with the heaviness weighing down, pummeling along with the bass snarling dangerously and the track turning into exhaust that fades into the air.
Kowloon Walled City has been a little underappreciated by just about everyone, but every time out, the band churns out a workmanlike mix of post-hardcore, doom, and noise rock. “Piecework” is another great building block by the band, an emotional, jabbing dagger to your ribs just to wake you from any sense of apathy. Worked into this is very human pain to which we all can relate and likely all have experienced in some form, and this record works to make that emotion a little more tangible.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/kowloonwalledcity
To buy the album, go here: https://www.neurotrecordings.com/store
For more on the label, go here: https://www.neurotrecordings.com/
And here: https://gileadmedia.net/