Album Review: Knights of the Abyss - 'The Culling of Wolves'

22 August 2010 | 10:21 pm | Staff Writer
Originally Appeared In

Lacking any real bite

Knights of the Abyss are one of those bands that have experienced a revolving door of members. Originally formed in 2005 by ex-Job For a Cowboy drummer Andy Rysdam, members have come and gone for various reasons, some leaving due to injuries others to pursue their education. Surviving this cull is founding member Nick Florence, who is the only original member of the band to feature on their third full-length album, The Culling of Wolves. Nevertheless, joining Florence is a rejuvenated line-up consisting of vocalist Harley Magnum, guitarist Brian Mc Nulty, bassist Griffin Kolinski and drummer Ben Harclerode. With the slate wiped clean and fresh blood injected into the band by its new members, Knights of the Abyss have summoned their collective talents to deliver a melodic death metal album by the books for album number three.

You have to admire this band for their unfaltering commitment to peddling a sound that’s heavily indebted to the melodic death metal heavyweights of Gothenburg during the 1990s. Having obviously grown up on a healthy diet of bands including Carcass, At The Gates and Dark Tranquility, the band has set its sights on straying away from the deathcore elements predominant on their previous releases in favour of pursuing a more straightforward death metal sound on The Culling of Wolves. Therefore, while they don’t reinvent the wheel in terms of originality, the revamped Knights of the Abyss line-up proves effective in terms of their shared focus on a vicious yet derivative melodic death metal formula.

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Aligning themselves with the abrasive death metal pack, the band go straight for the jugular on opener “The House of Crimson Coin” which features a heavy groove, guttural growls provided by Magnum and is rounded out nicely by some melodic guitar lead. This song operates as the blueprint for the ensuing songs that follow a no-nonsense approach that encompasses loud, fast and uncompromising head banging moments.

“Dead to Reform” is a strong cut early on that features a haunting, intricately picked guitar riff that combines with a sturdy rhythm section of thumping drums and chugging guitars. The frantic tempo fails to let up during “Deceiver’s Creed”, which has plenty of bite but is ultimately a little forgettable while “Slave Nation” features a silky smooth guitar solo in amongst the chaos and fury.

As the album progresses it becomes clear that all the members of Knights of the Abyss are competent musicians that have refined their skills over years of practice. Nevertheless, although leaps and bounds in front of some of their contemporaries in terms of technicality, there’s an unshakable feeling that there’s a certain x-factor missing at times. Cuts from the second half of the album including “Flight of Molech” and “Swine of the Holy Order” may hurtle along with all their might but they retain such similar tempos, rhythms and characteristics to earlier tracks on the album that they don’t leave much of an impact. While there’s a lot of ambition in the songs they are also quite rigid in their structure and hence border on the tedious at times.

What separates Knights of the Abyss from the leaders of the melodic death metal pack is simply the dynamics of their songwriting. All the elements are in place: the blast beat drumming, razor sharp riffs and guttural vocals. However, there’s few occasions during the album where these elements really solidify to create something both striking and memorable. The strong moments during The Culling of Wolves are offset by many that will wash over the listener without leaving a strong impression. Perhaps it’s a case of a new line-up working out the kinks, but while a solid release it’s still only a drop in a sea of Gothenburg-inspired metal albums.

1. The House Of Crimson Coin

2. Pandemic

3. Dead To Reform

4. Deceiver's Creed

5. Slave Nation

6. Cremation Of Care

7. Flight Of Molech

8. Council Of Wolves

9. Swine Of The Holy Order

10. Den Of The Deceived

11. The Culling