Written by Kirk
Radiant Knife — Pressure
> Progressive sludge/post-metal
> Louisiana, US
> Released July 14
Scenes are important. Especially when it comes to music. These are things we—particularly as metalheads—know deep down in our core, but it’s not something we discuss often enough, both as individuals and as a community. And as music has evolved over the last several decades, particularly with the birth of the counterculture movement in the 1960s, music scenes have been vital for the continued growth and diversity that we have seen in music ever since. Scenes are vital to the music we love.
When talking about music scenes, what comes to mind? There are plenty of obvious answers like New York, London, D.C., Germany, California, Australia, Seattle, etc. The list goes on and on. As a near lifelong Maryland resident, I’m a big fan of the Baltimore scene for all of its quirky, weird, idiosyncratic vibes. Plus, as someone who was born in Louisiana and raised on a deep love of that rich Cajun heritage, I’m a sucker for just about anything that comes from my home state. And if you want to thumb your nose at the musical heritage of Louisiana, you’re a fool; that state may be the richest in musical legacy than anywhere in the whole United States.
To those of you reading this who aren’t familiar with the rich history of the Louisiana music scene, let’s have a quick history lesson. For starters, it’s the birthplace of zydeco jazz and the home of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. It’s also the birthplace of funk music, pioneered by artists like Dave Bartholomew and Professor Longhair. And it’s the birthplace of sludgecore and home to such bands as Eyehategod, Acid Bath, and Crowbar. To be honest, I could go on and on and on about the history of Louisiana music, but that’s not what I’m here for today. I’m here to talk about Pressure, the latest album from Radiant Knife.
To listen to Pressure, you wouldn’t know that Radiant Knife is a two-piece project. Consisting of guitarist, vocalist, and keyboardist Stephen Sheppert and drummer Greg Travasos, their sound is bolder and more dynamic than that of other groups with a fuller lineup. Drawing inspiration from bands like King Crimson, Today is the Day, and Yes, their music is both unsettlingly unique and as comforting as a second helping of fresh beignets at Cafe du Monde. And from the moment that opening track “Slumber” begins to wash over you, you feel though your very spirit is being peeled away by a hot, razor-sharp knife.
It’s hard to put into words exactly what it is about Pressure that make it—and Radiant Knife—so special. At its core, it’s that Louisiana sludgecore we all know and love, but it’s been distilled with progressive metal and post-rock to the point where it’s hardly recognizable. Stephen’s guitar sounds like if Jason Shi started running his effects through a power saw, full of chaos and raw energy. Conversely, his keyboard parts sound reminiscent of ’80s nostalgia fest Stranger Things colliding with your favorite post apocalyptic movie score.
And the overall vibe of the album shifts over the course of its nigh-forty minute runtime, switching back and forth from that frenetic urgency of songs like “Slumber”, “Sunsets from Space”, and “His Capa Was Detated” to a slower, heavier sludge-like dirge like “Ghost Samurai” (which sounds like the album art for Steak’s Acute Mania come to life) and “Phil Collins Was Right”. And then there’s “Give Yourself Away”, which sounds like pure Red Fang worship (but in the best way). And then it all somehow tied together perfectly in the 8:03 closer “Demon Legs”, which may very well be the best and most harmonious album closer I’ve heard all year. Again, I find myself at a loss at how to properly express my thoughts with words; you’ll just have to listen to Pressure to fully understand.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Every once in a while, a band comes along that takes everything you think you know about the music you love and flips it over on its head. This has happened to me on numerous occasions with bands like Suicide, Television, Bush Tetras, and Flipper, bands that opened my eyes and my mind to the possibilities and liberties that can be taken with what we commonly refer to as “music.” Not content to be “just another sludgecore band,” Radiant Knife are fit to burst with this same experimental spirit, doing what Louisiana musicians do best and pushing the boundaries of their craft to the utmost to create something that will obliterate your expectations and ravage your senses. One does not listen to Pressure without being affected by it—changed in some unforeseen way. To do so is unheard of.