Hydra Head just keep getting weirder and weirder. Now, don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a large amount of releases this label puts out. They’ve always been one to stray away not only from the ‘norm’ but from even fitting a niche with their output. With a wide variety of bands playing an even wider variety of music, it’s tough to really say Knut are anything ‘weird.’ At the same time, their four full-length releases have all been fairly different from each other and most anything else put out on the label.
Expectedly, Alter is no different.
A remix album, much like Agoraphobic Nosebleed's similar endeavor, this record takes fourteen songs from their back catalog and has such experimental music heavyweights as Francisco Lopezand Oren Ambarchi have their way with the tracks, injecting their own artistic vision into the fiercely punishing riffage one has come to expect from the European stalwarts.
That’s what’s still most important about Knut, is the unrelenting heaviness that permeates from their amps. Whether it’s a pulverizing set of riffs or just the swirls of feedback and dissonance layered between some chugging riffs and pounding drums -- it’s heavy. The raspy vocals sound as if they’re coming directly from the fire and brimstone of Hades itself, and no matter the alteration that was made in the remixes that fact is one that remains prevalent. “H/armless” sounds positively evil, as the tinkering that Justin Broadrick did with the track makes it the unquestioned soundtrack from hell. You can see the flames shoot higher and the screams of the damned amidst the chugging and aura of creepy electronic programming. The juxtaposition makes it equal parts horror movie and vision of the underworld. And that’s the impact some of these remixes have. They give you a sight and they give you a vision, albeit a haunting one from which some might rather turn away.
Fransisco Lopez gives a very industrial feel to “Untitled #154” with what he added to the sonic landscape. Already firing at blistering speeds, the dark electronics added give much the same visualization as “H/armless,” albeit in a different setting. This time it’s a factory. The clank of metal on metal and fight between man and machine is vicariously played out during the slower riffing, while the reverberations and digital addition sound as bleak as that oil-stained factory floor. Liquid iron is poured into huge vats while sledgehammers hit below.
Each of the 14 remixes adds a different element, one that lets the band rely on something besides just being heavy. The imagery presented here is undeniably vivid, and lends an element to the music the band never really had before. It adds something tangible, something you can see and something you can experience. From the fires of hell to the factory floor, this record is a trip.