l still remember the first time I listened to Anaal Nathrakh's In the Constellation of the Black Widow. The record was an unerringly savage punch in the gut that sounded less like a metal record and more like a cascading torrent of apocalyptic rage. It left me battered, dazed and confused about what the hell I had just listened to—and I wanted more. For the first time in years, Knelt Rote’s Alterity is the closest I have come to recapturing that visceral feeling. Simply put, Alterity is a blackened grind record. It has seven songs, all uniquely named. Yet, the record is less the sum of its parts and more a singular force that wields sheer destruction.
This is, personally, one of the most staggeringly intense records of recent memory. Alterity constantly rides the fine line between perfectly constructed metallic fury and incomprehensible noise; just barely managing to avoid the latter territory throughout its duration. The result is a nonstop adrenaline rush that takes at least a dozen listens before the record’s first nuances even make themselves apparent. However, each trip through the record is so clearly exhilarating, it sounds as fresh as the previous time.
What’s most impressive about Alterity is the record’s total efficiency in its runtime. No song feels like it plays for a microsecond longer than necessary; they’re all so richly detailed that they never seem underrealized. There is nary a single riff or inhuman screech that sounds out of place on any of Alterity's tracks. While the utter vitriol of the music doesn’t make for an easy listen; its relative brevity keeps things mostly manageable.
Alterity is undoubtedly best when listened to as a single piece, but that doesn't imply that each of its tracks lack individuality. The (relatively) mid-paced “Rumination” is dominated by rolling guitar riffs far more hypnotic than anyone could reasonably expect from this kind of music. Meanwhile, the gargantuan “Salience” features a vicious solo that jolts the listener out of whatever traumatized haze they might be in before plunging back into the murk.
Vocally, Knelt Rote is simply monstrous. Vocalist Gordon Ashworth’s swaps from gurgly, distorted roars to occasional raspy screeches on a dime; both styles are suitably terrifying. The vocals sound rather digitized and frequently layered on top of one another to an especially caustic effect. Though that might worry some; neither of these things ever sound like a cover-up for some sort of vocal or other musical flaws. Any sort of post-production serves only to supplement the music’s crushing heaviness and it does so to great effect.
“Genetic Memory” subtly shifts between those aforementioned vocal styles throughout before utterly exploding with agonized screams in the record’s final few seconds. Though that’s a particular vocal standout among many others; it’s shocking how close this is to the norm for Alterity. This kind of unmatched wanton brutality would be rare to nonexistent for even some of the industry’s best artists.
There’s also album closer “Black Triptych” which takes no prisoners in its second half. It begins with a phenomenal guitar solo that is only outmatched by the following minute that can only be described as a pure metallic chaos. Then, just like that, it stops. “Black Tripytch” abruptly cuts out, and with that, Alterity ends. Overall, there are plenty of other highlightable moments like those buried throughout the record. While Alterity is not overly technical, there are plenty of intricacies to unearth that justify numerously repeated spins—despite the unapologetic abrasiveness.
I’ve already listened to this record more than 20 times, and that number is sure to increase several times by the time 2018 draws to a close. This is mandatory listening for extreme metal fans and will almost certainly reappear in end-of-year record discussions, but Knelt Rote has released something beyond that: Alterity has the potential to become a modern classic.
Tyler Hersko is on Twitter.