There really isn’t any other way to say this: The Swiss math-metal quintet Knut has been around for 16 years and has over 12 releases under its belt, so the band should be capable of so much more than what it’s delivered on Wonder.
Things start off well enough. Opening track “Leet” is a thrilling jump back into the math-metal pool, offering a buffet of herky-jerky guitar riffs and drum parts that sound like a Morse code distress call. The album’s biggest flaw, though, is that it takes this formula and just repeats it. “Damned Extroverts” goes into “Suckers,” which goes into “Calamity,” and the story remains the same. The riffs continue their stop-start patterns, Dieder Séverin screams himself hoarse, and so on.
Also working against the album is the sequencing and production. For a band that likes to claim sludge influences, the production isn’t that kind to Jerome Doudet’s bass, burying it under the trebly weight of Tim Robert-Charrue’s and Christian Valleise’s guitars. The album could also do with a good re-sequencing. Knut’s instrumental songs are pretty great, but are placed quite awkwardly here, leading to almost the entire second half of the album being devoid of vocals.
On second thought, what does it say about Knut’s current situation that the instrumentals end up being the highlights of the album? “Ultralight Backpacking” stomps along like a Pelican track, leaving effects-ridden guitars and slow-burning crescendos in its wake before building to a pounding, hypnotic conclusion. “If We Can’t Fly There, We’ll Take The Boat” plods at a similar tempo, but dabbles more into melodic territory. While these songs retain some technical elements of the songs with vocals, they work better due to their ability to breathe. They reach their peak on the album-closing combo of “Wonder/Daily Grind,” which just oozes evil, and comes closest to realizing its sludge potential.
Where Knut’s mathcore contemporaries were able to succeed was in their willingness to embrace things completely out of left field. The sadly departed and often imitated Botch did so by brazenly throwing gobs of empty space into their songs, through Dave Knudson’s prickly, melodic guitar parts and through their full, quicksand-thick production jobs. Converge succeeds through their fearless experimentation, as well as their constant fusion of melody with brutality. Perhaps it’s the series of lineup changes Knut has gone through since 2005’s Terraformer that caused a bit of disconnect, but when listening to Wonder, it’s a little disheartening to hear veterans of the genre sound so boilerplate.