Album Review: Breathe Knives/Kataplexis Split

Review by Mark Laffin

At first glance, it may seem as though these 2 Calgary bands don’t share much in common. Breathe Knives come off as some kind of noise rock/post-metalcore with some industrial tendencies, where Kataplexis follow a more traditional death-grind ethos. Upon first listening to this split I was somewhat perplexed by this particular accord, and was given a first impression of just a group of friends from the same local scene wanting to cut a record together. Then at some point I finally did get the picture. Both of these bands offer sounds decidedly from the extreme side of things and as it turns out, the split feels like a union of kindred spirits and a true celebration of Canadian extremity. What’s offered here is a comprehensive and panoramic display of extreme sounds from the perspective of 2 different frontiers.

Breathe Knives’ sonic palette is very interesting. The mood is also very decisive with flagrant tones of anguish and misery. These affectations are driven home with crushing, yet uniquely dynamic rhythms and menacing vocals in the vein of At The Gates’ Tomas Lindberg. Conventional song structure is blatantly disregarded in favor of just sheer carnage, while the soundscape is further decorated with screaming feedback and random movie sound bites. It’s all a product of barely-controlled chaos beneath a thick layer of really dirty production. Kataplexis’ charm lies in the authenticity of their sound. They recall some of the classic ‘80’s era death-grind in the tradition of Napalm Death. The band’s sound is easily summed up with frantic speed and merciless brutality.

Breathe Knives kicks the album off in high gear with “Wake Up Walt Disney” which sounds as though it could do just that. With no real chorus to speak of, the song is merely a relentless foray into a world of noise and emotional catharsis. The heavy staccato rhythm is complemented by shrieks of feedback in between measures, and all with a programmed drum track reminiscent of KMFDM. “Steel Cheek vs Ice Cream Teeth” begins with a sleazy sound bite of Matt Dillon from the film Factotum, then quickly launches into ferocious blast-beat territory which is periodically segmented by a mid-tempo rock riff which seems to offer some relief from the turmoil. The band then finishes their set with a pair of covers, with one being a tribute to none other than their split-mate, Kataplexis.

The final Breathe Knives track features a 30 second silence at the end, which seems to serve as some kind of silent intermission before the next band is introduced. “Fuckin’ Hostie” sets the tone for the next suite of songs with a consistent blast-beat and guttural vocals that sound as if from the Abyss. There are far less musical dynamics in this half of the album, but that doesn’t mean any shortage of savage aggression. The band yields shifting tempos and sonic embellishments for uncompromising rancor and brutal resolve. In fact, the only time the band slows down at all is with doing the Breathe Knives cover, “Rebreather”. Having said that, a sense of humour is evidently not lost on the band, with song titles like “Rippin’ Tacos” and “Cocksmoke”. Not to mention the very tongue-in-cheek electronic remix of “Fuckguy”, complete with over the top Auto-Tune which serves as the album’s closer. What is especially hilarious is that the original version of the song, also on the album, is a whole 8 seconds long.

I have to admit, my tastes in metal are rather distinguished. I typically like heavy music that features a bit more melody and groove, which neither is really showcased here at all. Both of these bands are a bit on the extreme side for me, but I do find this to be a fascinating project that features expressions of sheer intensity from 2 ends of an arguably small spectrum. What gives more weight to the experiment is both bands willing for one song, to step outside their comfort zone and pay homage to the other band with a pair of respective covers. The effort genuinely stands out as a bold statement representing extreme music out of Western Canada, and for those out there with a craving for pure sonic antagonism, this will be a real treat.


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