By El Chief

The fourth full-length release ("Alterity") from Portland, Ore., noise makers Knelt Rote proves the boys are still embracing change. What originally started as an electronic-grind project is now morphing into something a lot more listenable. Cynics would say Knelt Rote is either slowing down or taking a stab at becoming mainstream, but those cynics would be wrong. "Alterity" is still heavy as hell and remains accessible only to those who like their riffs as punishing as possible.

While the song structure for Knelt Rote has indeed softened between their previous effort, 2012's "Trespass," they are nowhere near approaching sell-out status like other metal acts that similarly embraced change—I'm looking at you, Avenged Sevenfold and Trivium. 

However, what seemed like a war between drums and guitars during the "Trespass" recording sessions is now being incrementally decided in favor of guitars. That's precisely the course change I think Knelt Rote needed to take. Too many promising starts in "Trespass" were ripped apart by the push between blasting snare and guitarists who were trying to play around with slower tempos. What was left felt more like drone metal, no track was indistinguishable from the others. With "Alterity," the rhythms actually change, not only from song-to-song but also within songs themselves. That didn't happen by chance. Knelt Rote jettisoned their previous drummer after "Trespass" and hired Elias Bloch. The result put them closer to becoming a group to be reckoned with.

Like I said, though, "Alterity" is still a fundamentally heavy album. Even though black metal is now pushing drone into the closet, the riffs continue to be stacked solidly upon each other, giving the listener little time to gasp for air. And Gordon Ashworth's vocals are as ghostly and menacing as ever. I have no idea what Ashworth is saying with his howls and shrieks, but I don't need to. The style remains perfect for a band that still dares to make you afraid to listen to them alone in a darkened room, despite actually coming closer to pushing out typical song structures. Who knows, in another four albums, Knelt Rote might even stumble upon a genuine chorus. Now, that would be scary.