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Knifeworld - The Unravelling CD (album) cover

THE UNRAVELLING

Knifeworld

Crossover Prog


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Second Life Syndrome
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars I've seen so much hype about this new Knifeworld album that I seriously wanted to slap an even lower rating on it. But I'm not like that. Knifeworld's latest, "The Unravelling", has arrived from Inside Out, and people are eating it up. There's something about the quirk in this band's sound that has convinced people to bow before them. Yet, I refuse.

Knifeworld. KNIFEWORLD. What kind of name is that, anyways? This band seems overly concerned with appearing special or different. They seem to put tons of effort into looking the "prog part", if you will. On paper, then, this new album seems like it should be a spectacular display of eclecticism and brilliance. With male and female singers (including the venerable Kavus Torabi) and with many different instruments making regular appearances, such as an entire brass section and violin, this album seems like it will be special. Like I said, though, I think that's how the band wants it to look on paper. The band, however, is certainly skilled at playing their instruments, and the album is technically proficient.

In reality, much of this album is a pretentious mess. Melodies and instruments clash and play past each other. Spaces in the music are like gaping holes in a bucket, letting all the content just escape. The band seems to think that composing music is simply cutting and paste grooves and melodies from classic bands. Indeed, there are entire foundations of songs on this album that seem like they were ripped directly from a Gentle Giant album. It's one thing to include a tool used by an older band, it's entirely different to change very little and expect the listener not to notice. I speak specifically of "The Skulls We Buried Have Regrown Their Eyes", as the brassy, bassy groove sounds ripped from "The Power and the Glory". That isn't the only one either. Not by a mile. Other bands ripped off include Yes and even The Steve Miller Band. Generally speaking, then, this album is nothing but old material arranged slightly differently, and with absolutely no shame at all.

The entire persona of the band screams prog-wannabe, though. From the pretentious song titles to the lazy attempts to sound and look unique to even the freakin' band name, the band comes off as trying to be "prog" as hard as they can, but there's just no real content or real inspiration involved at all. It's sad, though, as many of the songs have very short moments that sound original, but the band abandons them as quickly as they came. Overall, then, I'm completely unimpressed, and I was glancing at the clock before the album was even halfway done.

2.5 stars

Report this review (#1239057)
Posted Friday, August 8, 2014 | Review Permalink
Nogbad_The_Bad
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl & Eclectic Team
5 stars It's only halfway through the year so far but this may well end up as my album of the year for 2014.

Knifeworld have been around for around 5 years but this is really the first full formed album with a eight piece band bringing Kavus Torabi's (Cardiacs, Guapo, Gong) ideas to life. This is the sort of clever complex psychedelic pop that XTC and Mike Kenneally have specialized in. Beautifully mastered by Bob Drake it can initially sound a little quiet but that's because it sacrifices the current noise wars for full defined sound. You can turn this all the way up and everything is really clear.

While Kavus' guitar is very prominent in everything it's really the bassoon and vocals that give this album a depth of sound that is pretty unique. There's song craft, complexity, riffs and hooks a plenty.

The only complaint could be that it's a bit short in comparison to a lot of modern prog releases but the music is so captivating that you feel exhausted when it ends. This is a masterpiece.

Report this review (#1248551)
Posted Thursday, August 14, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars Knifeworld is the band resulting from a solo project of Cardiacs guitarist Kavus Torabi. Tim Smith always described Cardiacs music as "psychedelic pop'. The same description you could give Knifeworld, yet they do not sounds like Cardiacs at all. In fact they do not sound like any other band currently in my collection.

Surely you can hear a lot of influences. I can hear a bit of Syd Barret, a bit of XTC, a bit of Gentle Giant and, what the hell, even a bit of Cardiacs. The unravelling sounds pretty diverse yet very coherent at the same time.

One of the strongest assets of this band is the wonderrful horn section. The bassoon intro on 'Send him seaworthy' gives me goosebumps everytime. More prog bands need horns and above all bassoon!

This is not a typical 'prog' album and it was never meant to be. Still I think many prog fans would enjoy this. It is colourful, layered and complex psycedelic pop. Kavus has a background in RIO/Avant prog but let this not deter you; The Unravelling is remarkable accesible but with an adventurous nature.

4 1/2 stars but happily rounded off to 5

Report this review (#1254234)
Posted Tuesday, August 19, 2014 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars I was just thinking the other day about how much my tastes have changed since my early twenties. These days it's albums like "The Unravelling" that do more for me than 99% of the current Metal albums out there. This is challenging and innovative yet full of hooks and very melodic. Of course Kavus the leader of KNIFEWORLD played in CARDIACS for years so I did think of that band as well as Zappa and early ROXY MUSIC. And I really like how they use the horns on this recording.

"I Can Teach You How To Lose A Fight" is my favourite track on here. Percussion, atmosphere and female vocals create such a good feeling for me. It kicks in around a minute without vocals but we do get some vocal melodies. Male vocals arrive after 2 minutes including backing vocals. So good! Love the horns too. The clapping 3 1/2 minutes in works as he almost speaks the lyrics, it then kicks back in. "Why did you chose those thief in your heart" is repeated a lot. Next up is "The Orphanage" a ROXY MUSIC styled track that is short but energetic, melodic and catchy. A nice laid back section around a minute in with female vocals then back to the main theme. "Send Him Seaworthy" has a beat as a bass horn or bassoon joins in. It stops as these very English vocals arrive. A relaxed tune with horns and more. There's even some organ around 3 1/2 minutes. I like the instrumental section 4 minutes in with honking horns and a relaxed soundscape.

"Don't Land On Me" is different. It reminds me of CARDIACS early on with the energy. A calm with piano, a beat and releaxed vocals take over after a minute. Love this stuff. How many vocalists are there? The tempo continues to shift. A calm with female vocals 4 1/2 minutes in then a minute later it turns surprisingly heavy. Man I didn't like this the first time I heard it and i'm still not that into it. Themes are repeated. "The Skulls We Buried Have Regrown Their Eyes" sounds amazing with that atmosphere, vocals and keyboards. The vocals remind me of Tillison here. "Destroy The world We Love" is my second favourite tune on here. A feel good start with this guitar/drum intro as other instruments join in then vocals as the contrasts continue. Love the calm halfway through that continues to the end. It's quite dreamy. "This Empty Room Once Was Alive" is a haunting track with reserved vocals reminding me of Steven Wilson somewhat. Intricate guitar and piano help out. It's experimental late. "I'm Hiding Behind My Eyes" is the over 9 minute closer. Picked guitar and spacey vocals to start. Piano before 2 minutes as horns and bassoon join in. It picks up before 3 minutes but the laid back sound will dominate. A cool sounding tune.

Without question one of the better releases i've heard this year, now I have to get their debut which some say is even better.

Report this review (#1344408)
Posted Sunday, January 11, 2015 | Review Permalink
4 stars The Unravelling is my first encounter with "Knifeworld's" music and one of the last record's from 2014 I am going to review before I will sum the year for myself. I had read some reviews and seen some opinions stating this was the best album of the year and in relation to a quite small interest here I though it was interesting to investigate it. Knifeworld is a British band which made their first studio record 2009 and now 2014 they did their second one: "The Unravelling". I wouldn't say the cover is spectacular but it is different, especially in this genre but I like its purity and strong colours.

The list of musicians is quite long and that is probably one of the reasons this music is so interesting. The band is developped around Kavus Torabi, the guitarist and vocalist and he plays with the vocalist/percussionist Melanie Woods, the keyboardist Emmett Elvin, the bassist Charlie Cawood, the drummer Ben Woollacutt, the bassoonist, saxophonist and vocalist Chlöe Herington and the saxophonists Josh Perl and Nicki Maher. I must say it's so wonderful to hear bassoon and saxophone in prog rock and that's really making the music as good as it is. I haven't had so many experiences with bassoon, one of them is Stravinskij's "Rite of spring", but I can say that only that music in rock is a reason to listen to this album.

Knifeworld's music is well played, interesting, fine vocals from different persons, nice sweaping melodies and I got memories from Gentle Giant's, Gryphon's and Beardfish's music now during my listenings. I found the music fresh and unlike the most music I had heard, but always vibrant and colourful. The whole album is great but is has some highlights I would recommend as the first to hear: "Send him seaworthy" which has an uncompromising melody and a lovely bassoon play(9/10), "Destroy the world we love"(8/10) which has some Beardfish'-like parts, "I can teach you how to lose a fight"(8/10) which is a sum of the album, "Don't land on me" a long and inspiring song(8/10) and "The skulls we burried have regrown their eyes"(8/10) which is a little scary but interesting horror song. The whole album is great but the shortest song is the least interesting.

As a totally new encounter I was very pleased to like this as much as I did and Knifeworld is definitely a group I will follow and relisten to. I will rate this record with four stars(3.75)!

Report this review (#1383756)
Posted Tuesday, March 17, 2015 | Review Permalink
Matti
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars At the first listening this highy adventurous album actually annoyed me in many ways, but I had an optimistic thought that it's simply one of those albums that need to be digested several times to "get" them. When I gave a praising five-star review for universal Totem Orchestra last week, I thought I may find more positive reception for this one too. And then I understood what's wrong with it. The music may be very clever indeed, but... it doesn't SOUND good to me.

This is the second album - of three this far - by the British act Knifeworld, whose leader Kavus Torabi has Iranian family background. He's written all the music and he sings and plays various instruments, mainly guitar. I think he's a terribly bad singer. Stuffy voice a bit similar to Steve Jolliffe's (on Tangerine Dream's Cyclone, 1978) but lacking the peculiar charm. The line-up features women with nice vocals, so it goes beyond my comprehension why Torabi chooses to sing most of the album's vocals himself. And sadly the sound in general is quite stuffy, unclear. The first reviewer put it perfectly: "In reality, much of this album is a pretentious mess. Melodies and instruments clash and play past each other."

There are many promising things. The arrangement varies nicely during the album (if the bad production hadn't blurred it all, that is), featuring seldom heard instruments such as bassoon, clarinet and violin. Saxes are used a lot. The main vocals on the opening track are by Melanie Woods and it's a pretty good composition, if rather restless. The edgy, eclectic coplexity and the use of male/female vocals remind me of the Finnish band DISCORDIA. But then it's steep downhill with the dominance of Torabi's vocals and the messy soundscape. I'm not saying there wasn't well thought precision in the sharp-twisting edginess, comparable to Frank Zappa or Gentle Giant. Maybe without those bad male vocals and with a more clear production this album would be a charming infant terrible.

In fact I appreciate the adventurous spirit, the sort of "we do what we will, like it or not" attitude. Though most of the tracks concentrate on the restless complexity with not much of an emotional aspect, there are also some more delicate moments. 'This Empty Room Was Once Alive' is very ripped-down sonically: a sparse soundscape with a toy piano amidst other minimastically played instruments, and vocals are shared by Torabi and Melanie Woods. Damn. So close to being a disarmingly personal eclectic prog album full of surprises. The fact remains that the lion's share sounds stuffy and messy. With some pity, I return this CD to the library and say adieu, probably we won't be seeing anymore.

Report this review (#1738312)
Posted Tuesday, June 27, 2017 | Review Permalink

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