[21st October 2013]
01. This Better Be Life Threatening Norman
02. Starting Strength
03. Class of 94
04. Bunch of Fucking Mutants
06. The Moon on a Stick
07. Learning by Doing
08. Here’s Your Shit Sandwich
09. Flapjack the Ripper
Holy shrieking Jesus. Even if you have come across Newcastle noise-terrorist trio We Are Knuckle Dragger previously, second album The Drone is a challenging listen. If you’re yet to experience them, brace yourself.
However difficult it may be to penetrate WAKD’s dense sound, they’ve managed to attract some friends with serious reputations. Their 2012 debut Tit For Tat was produced by the Steve Albini (Nirvana, Helmet, Neurosis), and this time around, that chair has been filled by Ross Robinson (Korn, Glassjaw and… er… Vanilla Ice).
That the band have managed to secure the services of two unabashed legends to capture their sound in the studio should be an early indicator that WAKD are not your common-or-garden hardcore band.
But make no mistake; unlocking the twisted charms of The Drone will require some effort. That first listen is somewhat akin to being given The Bumps in a room with too low a ceiling. You emerge battered, bewildered and strangely invigorated.
Although the three-piece employ minimal overdubs, the band still manage kick out a sound as dense as a concrete milkshake. This is helped in no small part by a bass tone filthier than anything this side of ken MODE. Other reference points for their sound would be Unsane, The Jesus Lizard, the sadly defunct Down I Go and, at times, John Zorn’s Moonchild Trio. Lumbering, Neolithic, discordant riffing, loose time signatures and a positively cavalier attitude to traditional verse/chorus song structures result in a run of ten short, sharp shocks of angular, jarring noise.
WAKD also indicate that they’re not all that po-faced with their humorous song titles. Best of the bunch is definitely “Flapjack The Ripper“, but additionally no band that calls a track “Bunch of Fucking Mutants“, “Moon On A Stick” or “This Better Be Life-Threatening Norman” can be accused of taking themselves too seriously. That last one has a faintly familiar ring to it – I think its a quote from somewhere, but I can’t put my finger on exactly where. Any suggestions?
Whilst initial listens to The Drone are most likely to set hair on end and teeth on edge, after a few repeats something odd happens. It starts to make sense. It is a gradual process, with elements like the demented swing of the second half of “Learning By Doing” providing the keys to decode the madness. With each repeat, more of the logic lurking under the shards of feedback and screaming reveals itself. And, in turn, each listen becomes more enjoyable.
Like a particularly tricky computer game, a goodly chunk of the pleasure that can be derived from The Drone comes from this minor sense of accomplishment. But once all the treasures have been unlocked, there might be some issues with replay value. The Drone isn’t background music; it demands your attention. It’s not clear at this stage whether it is an album that will be enjoyed in the long-term, or just during the process of discovery.
It is fair to say that We Are Knuckle Dragger are not for everyone, but if you do like a challenge, and singalong choruses are not a prerequisite, then you may find some pleasing surprises buried in The Drone.