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Grindcore

Plummeting Downward With Fists Casting Upward: A Look At KNOLL ‘Metempiric’

The last few years have seen an increasingly democratized grindcore, with more bands around the globe integrating fast and vicious flavors with their chosen genre, creating complex Venn diagrams of multiple stylistic circles. Bands like Internal Rot, Deterioration, P.L.F., and Death Toll 80K continue to push the pure grindcore form to heretofore unseen extremes, building on the innovations of their artistic forebears, while bands like Full of Hell, Bleeding Out, Chepang, Gasp, and Backslider blur the genre lines, incorporating elements of noise, death metal, world, math, psychedelic, and powerviolence to create sounds that require even more hyphenation and prefixation to adequately label their sounds.

An ever-expanding variety of bands congregating under the grind umbrella is an embarrassment of riches, and the mixed part of the blessing is that it becomes especially difficult for bands to set themselves out as something special. The relative mainstreaming of a proudly esoteric genre creates some homogenization, particularly among bands who strive to remain mostly loyal to the style’s mainstays. It takes a band that is especially excellent, especially driven, or especially innovative to rise above the roar of their cohort. Knoll is all three.

Metempiric is Knoll’s sophomore LP, released less than two years since their amazing debut, Interstice. In their short time as a band, they have established a strong reputation in the often exclusive world of grind and grind-adjacent heavy music, engendering allies and advocates in fan favorites with whom they’ve shared a stage, such as Bandit, Cloud Rat, Hallucination Realized, Body Farm, Wolf King, meth., God of Gaps, and Frail Body. Furthermore, both LPs have had the support of studio work by industry giants Andy Nelson, Brad Boatright, and Kurt Ballou, all of whose endorsements are indication enough that this young band is on to something real and important.

In the genre-expansive, experimental spirit of Andrew Nolan‘s projects–especially Column of Heaven–Knoll weaves grindcore together with noise, death metal, and black metal, even including the occasional trumpet section, adding to the number of feet treading the new path that Chepang’s and Full of Hell’s recent saxophone-inclusive tracks have pioneered. While Interstice exploded on to the scene like a rightly enraged bull at a rodeo, Metempiric exhibits a band more confident in its powers, freer to break new ground. The quality of the band’s songwriting and technical skill belies their newness, but their precociousness with genre experimentation is the most impressive thing, as one expects bands to demonstrate this kind of ingenuity at the ten-year mark, not the 1.5 one.

First single, “Felled Plume,” is a deserving introduction to this new chapter of Knoll. With the math-y precision of Pupil Slicer and early Dillinger Escape Plan, as well as the unchecked and very real aggression of Scalp and Ingrown, the band compiles a sound whose surface is only just scratched by the descriptor “blackened deathgrind.” Fingerboard tapping lights over anvil-dense palm-muting, with complex tempo shifts that the sextet synchronizes so gracefully that the listener barely notices, in part because the vocals are so dynamic and bestial that one is hypnotized by its otherworldliness. And while it would take an especially keen ear to parse the lyrics through the inhuman squalling, one would do well to dedicate attention to them, as they are more thoughtful and erudite than most of those by the band’s contemporaries, inviting comparisons to Malazan Book of the Fallen, The Great God Pan, and Ulysses.

The artillery-fire beats of second single, “Clepsydra,” are the main driver of the songs violent assault on the senses, hastening the listener’s pulse and drawing sweat from their brow. The song, a sonic evolution of the kind of chaos premiered in Interstice’s Earth’s Iron Lung,” the kind that merges The Kill and Primitive Man, engages its blitzing sections as well as its doom-and-gloom sludge sections with such care that infernal soundscapes emerge, evoking images of molten glowing and Damascus-sharp crags. Ambience and violence converge under a voice whose overtones and undertones make it ambiguously or simultaneously a screech and a roar.

“Gild of Blotted Lucre” deftly braids the disparate ingenuities of Gaza, Gulch, Triumvir Foul, Concrete Winds, and Dead in the Dirt, maintaining a loose but constant balance of turmoil and careful construction. Paced perfectly to bond the listener to a part just before pulling the rug out, the song transitions between hailstorms of blastbeats, effortless sweep-picking, galloping d-beats, Gridlink-style chord-voicings, and big-boot-stomping brutality, all united by a look at the puzzle of existence, a look expresses hopelessness, misanthropy, and wonder.

Photo by Jake Murnane.

It is no mystery that Knoll has, in their extremely short tenure, already won headlining spots on tours with some of the day’s most important heavy acts. Between a famously energetic live presence, a tireless drive to create in the studio, and an uncommon conscientiousness about the craft of writing angry music, Knoll has deservedly found themselves at a stage that many bands don’t survive long enough to see. Metempiric, more than Interstice and more than most modern releases, is composed as an album rather than a series of songs, with an ear for variety, pacing, and experimentation that would intimidate many bands into creating a more conventional album. Knoll is taking creative risks that pay high artistic dividends, and while it is tempting to say that one is witnessing a band at the peak of their creative strengths, one also gets the feeling that this band is only beginning to reveal their substantial gifts.

Knoll vocalist Jamie Eubanks spared some time to talk with Cvlt Nation about the band and about Metempiric.

First, can you introduce the band members and any other projects they’re a part of?

Knoll is Jamie, Ryan, Lukas, Drew, Evan, and Jack. For everyone except Jack, this is our first and currently only project as we started it when we were still in high school and have no intentions outside of full dedication to Knoll. Jack is in a couple of other bands – Toxic Culture, a street punk band from Murfreesboro, and Torsion, his death metal band that is going on tour this July. 

The band released its debut less than two years ago, and it has released a split and a live album since. Now, we are seeing the release of your sophomore release when most bands would still be touring on their debut. How do you explain your pacing and energy?

I always feel that as musicians, we are meant to create music above anything else. Touring is necessary to properly promote the music and harvest the fruit of your work, and we greatly love touring, but we will always be writing between tours and that comes first. I personally don’t get burnt out and I have an insatiable need to create and distill these ideas into something that I feel should be in the world. That needs to happen when I feel it should happen for the music and I do not enjoy waiting based off of what a record label wants for sales or when the streaming algorithms are most likely to foster us. We will have another album out next year. Some things may take longer than others due to intentional creative hurdles in the pursuit of experimentation but right now we are in a position where we are highly conducive to each other’s minds and ability to write.

Can you describe the writing process for this record? How did you approach preparing a sophomore release following such a well-received debut?

We feel more pressure from within rather than from external expectations to create something that expands on the last release and that further aligns with the greater vision for the band. We had a lot of growth as musicians after Interstice and this time around the songs fell into place much more organically with far less rehashing. We share an interest in many instruments — all of us play guitar and I play drums as well as Jack — so most elements of the music are collaborative rather than a sum of individual contributions. We interpreted the record and brought it to fruition chronologically, adding material until we felt that the piece was finished and cohesive. It was created much quicker this way, but not by intent.

What were some major musical influences for this release? What about lyrical influences?

We carry a deep appreciation for many different types of music but intake a lot of avant-death, grind, jazz, and electronic music when it comes to the band. Convulsing, Portal & Impetuous Ritual, Full of Hell, Gorguts, Discordance Axis, Altarage, and Violet Cold to name a slim portion. I look to some music for lyrical inspiration, but most of it comes from my reading in physics and medical journals, religious or existential philosophy, poetry, or just my own experience. 

Grind fans and grind musicians can be notoriously picky, but Knoll seems to be universally liked. Why do you think that you’ve hit the right nerve for the genre? 

Thanks for saying that! I do feel that Knoll gets its fair share of flack but I don’t care much about it anymore. The people who do support us are incredibly kind and very much about it. It’s hard to say — I think from an ethos perspective, we are creating serious music with heavy intention and notions but do not try to act tough or anything like that outside of the music itself. We like to interact with people and make friends with those that share this community with us. I like to think that we are creating something fresh in this niche but are deeply indebted to those who have walked this path before us. We want to push extremity and I know there are many people, including myself, who are always looking for that. 

What do you love about grindcore right now? What should change?

We have felt more support for our genre and what we are doing on this tour than anything else. We operate within a realm of punks that know what’s up and make sure that we are healthy and able to keep going. I feel like people are really stoked to see a new extreme band putting out records and touring. It is not often that it happens and we know that we are privileged to be able to do it. The appreciation is always mutual. I do wish that some bands and listeners were not shutting the door behind them when coming into some level of success or getting rooted in an old-head mentality. The future of our niche lies in the hands of the young. We have to make room for them, and I am not just talking about us. We are blessed to have that space. 

Can you describe the heavy music scene in Tennessee? Who deserves to be more well-known from that scene? 

The south is a hard market but is teeming with gems. Many of the scenes rely on touring bands coming through and it can be difficult to break out of the state as a local. Murfreesboro has a sick house punk scene and Memphis, thankfully, keeps growing with bands and show attendees, many of which are very young. We did a split with Autolith out of Memphis and I will always shout out that band – they should have a full-length coming soon. I’m thrilled to see that Excavate is teaming up with Maggot Stomp, too. Brandon from that band (which also shares members with Autolith and Thief’s Hand) has been a local champion for years with Memphis Underworld and books just about every heavy show coming through. He is as real as it gets. We wouldn’t have much of a scene without him. 

What has it been like to perform after doing a lot of your creative work when performances weren’t happening?

Incredibly rewarding. I’m glad that we had the time to hone our material and plan around it but finally being able to recreate it in intimate scenarios is beyond expectation. We had no idea what touring would be like, or how sustainable it would be when we first set out to do it, but we immediately fell in love with it when we were able to. I have such a hard time sitting on the material so we have been playing over half of Metempiric on this tour and the reaction to that has been insane. We are really excited to see that be released.

What should people know about Knoll? About Metempiric?

We’ll be putting out records and touring until we are physically unable. This record puts our best foot forward and is a product of uncertain experience, knowing, and anguish. It treads a line of individualist abandonment and a profound derealization of preconceived patterns of thought. Listen to it loudly!

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

We’re probably coming near you sometime in June and we’ll be on tour again for a while later this year and into the next. Yes, we’re coming to Europe soon. Knoll is no label, no bullshit. You can only get our records and shirts through us. Support your friends in creating extreme music and thanks for supporting us!

Metempiric was engineered and recorded by Andy Nelson at Bricktop Recording.
It was mixed by Kurt Ballou at GodCity Studios and mastered by Brad Boatright at Audiosiege.
The artwork is by HELL SIMULATION.

Written By

Evan lives in Arizona and works as an English and History teacher. He loves to learn new things and meet new people.

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