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Manic Depressive Masterpiece - 91%

mschoech, January 31st, 2009

I don't usually write reviews out of spite. Hell, I don't even usually write reviews however there comes a time when grave injustices must be corrected. The injustice in question was perpetrated by the previous reviewer in his banal analysis of 'In the Know'. To say that Non-Fiction must have been "listening to a lot of Kyuss that week" is really putting the cart before the horse. Had the reviewer bothered to perform any research, he/she would have discovered that, rather than precursors, Kyuss were compatriots evolving at the same time as Non-Fiction, albeit on the other side of the continent. The reviewer was also off the mark on his assertion that this album was designed for MTV or popular consumption; there isn’t a populist bone in the whole album, much less the band.

The production is really is really dry here. Guitars, bass and drums are very staccato, riffing and popping in a manner that belies the subject matter; exposes of human greed, loneliness, and the empty social contexts that occupy life while one simultaneously contemplating ending it. Where Kyuss would have taken a fuzzy, droning approach to achieve feelings of abandonment, grief and futility, Non-Fiction uses a unique progression of clean de-tuned minor chords to drag the listener into their self-loathing, self-pitying spiral of depression.

Song structures and composition are unusual here as well. This is not really a metal album in the traditional sense. However, I submit that metal is more than just blast beats and flying guitar solos; metal is art as the language of life. Metal is also the cold, raw truth spoken by those who care not what society thinks of them. 'In the Know' is an expression of weakness and strength and frailty of the human mind complete with the psychoses apt to be found therein. Guitar work that seems unimaginative and boring to those not in tune with the big picture is actually the pushing and plodding that we all do in our mundane lives. The album is persistent and rhythmic in its march, and unswerving in its message.

‘In the Know’ was released in the days when vinyl and cassette tapes were still relevant and it's no accident that the songs were put to wax in the order in which they appear. The songs on first half of the album are quite depressing, even futile in their lyrical content and in the mood they induce. An engaged listener is dragged through a downward spiral and hits rock bottom with 'Reason to Die', a dirge which brings the listener to the brink of mental collapse and suicide. Song ends. Flip the tape. Side two begins with 'Reason to Live'; essentially the same song as 'Reason to Die' with the same chord progressions and song structure, albeit in a less menacing major key. ‘Reason to Live’ sets the mood for the second half of the album by somehow bringing resolution to the malignant thoughts (still present) and by steeling the mind with a new strength. The transition works so well because of the physical gap introduced when playback of side one ceases and the ensuing long pause generated while the album is being flipped. I must have listened to the tape a dozen times before I realized that the songs were nearly identical twins. That type of effect doesn't occur by accident.

Highlights on the album include ‘In the Know’, ‘Next to Nothing’, ‘Reason to Live’, ‘Reason to Die’, ‘Peaked’ and ‘Sound Decisions’