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What a Strong Leap - 95%

Schmeckle, June 18th, 2014

Knights of the Abyss has always been known as a sub-par band, throwing out mediocre songs (though still enjoyable) at a slow rate, with a surprising lack of talent throughout the band members. Their 2008 album "Shades" started their transformation from deathcore to death metal (slightly technical) but it didn't do much good for the band, as it was stuck in a median between the two, and it lacked the ability to branch to any audience. But this 2010 god tier release, "The Culling Of Wolves" is a completely different story.

On this album they pushed past the strange deathcore/death metal median into a melodic/technical death range; the whole album is much more fluent, with each song backing each-other nicely. They have a new vocalist, as well as Ben Harclerode behind the kit, their guitarists have more years of training under their belts, same with the bass player.

The drumming on this album, courtesy of Ben, is much faster paced than "Shades" or "Juggernaut" and much more precise. As usual with any death band, you are presented with ample blast beats and fast double bass. Ben uses plenty of cymbal work, and fluently moves around the kit, with attractive fills and crafty bass working. Overall the drumming is noticeably better than most modern tech death bands, but it isn't incredible.

The bass playing was the only let down on this whole album, because, quite frankly, you can't hear it. Either it be due to the fact that Kolinsky ever so precisely follows the lead guitar, or because it was tuned down to a much lower volume than it needed to be at; it is almost non-existent. Much like The Black Dahlia Murder (One of their key influences). Fans heavily into bass slapping groups such as, "Necrophagist," should stay away

The guitar playing on this thirty-seven minute long artwork is what stood out to me the most. Quite commonly, catchy melodic riffs will be thrown about, keeping a sense of formality with the blasting drums and growling. the song "Dead To Reform" stands out as the whole song is filled with melodic sweeps and pretty licks here and there. As the shortest track on the album (aside from the interlude-Cremation of Care) it is short and sweet, most definitely a highlight. "Slave Nation" has a slower solo smack dab in the middle, followed by a tasty chord progression, and then a little bridge; again, differing from most modern technical bands. This is also a highlight.

Their new vocalist, Logan Kavanaugh, Held to my expectations throughout this release. His vocals are generic, but not bad, and certainly do not take away from the listening experience. "Council of Wolves" starts with a sole vocal bit, and it quickly kicks of with hard hitting drums and a fast, technical riff, leading straight into the rest of the song seamlessly. Another highlight.

Overall this was a huge standpoint in the lives of Knights Of The Abyss, and in my opinion, a great it today's dying technical death industry. They created their own sound by simply playing what sounded good, and stayed far away from making it so obscure that it almost sounds goofy, as most new tech-death bands do. Every track on this album will be enjoyed, with "Dead to Reform, Council of wolves, The Culling," and "Slave Nation," leading as they are simply fantastic. I strongly recommend this album to any metal fan, especially those fond of The Black Dahlia Murder.

9.5/10

The awesome legacy of a once mediocre band - 91%

Vautour, July 8th, 2012

Knights of the Abyss have always been a troubled band, to say the very least. They have only been around since 2005 and still have more ex-members than most bands that have had a career of twenty years. Needless to say that most of their material suffered greatly due to this, their first two albums "Juggernaut" and "Shades" were mediocre at best. In fact, I always found it weird that they even got signed after "Juggernaut" and that their record contract was eventually renewed after "Shades". Yes, deathcore was still a relatively new hype back then - but neither of the two albums was much more than a light version of The Black Dahlia Murder plus breakdowns.

So I wasn't expecting too much when they - once again - renewed almost their whole line-up (except for founding member and guitarist Nick Florence) before recording "The Culling of Wolves". This time around, I was determined to not even check the album out - and I'm pretty happy that I didn't go through with that. The week after it came out, I was looking for some new music and then discovered the new Knights of the Abyss when going through the distribution list of my favorite mailorder store. And it was only ten bucks. Today, I'm pretty sure that those were some of the best ten bucks I ever spent on any deathcore album.

At first sight, "The Culling of Wolves" still has a lot in common with the works of The Black Dahlia Murder. Melodic, yet brutal death metal riffs, lots of blastbeats, fast doublebass work, a solid mixture of growls and screams - the only obvious difference is that Knights of the Abyss include some breakdowns here and there, although fewer than in the past. The songwriting seems more mature than in the past, going for an a lot darker atmosphere than before, also employing more hooks in form of the many quite technical lead-guitar parts and more memorable vocal patterns. While the style of The Black Dahlia Murder still shines through at many points, Knights of the Abyss give it their own personal twist and also outshine many of TBDM's works with this one.

Adding to the dark atmosphere is the lyrical concept which revolves around politics and conspiracies, mostly taking clues from Alex Jones' "Prison Planet" website. While I find it interesting and understandable that Knights of the Abyss address topics such as the growing power of corporations, loss of freedom and the financial crisis, I think they should have relied less on the theories of Alex Jones, who may be right in some ways, but is wrong in at least as many others and mostly comes off as a madman. This is only a minor point of criticism, but I guess that Jones' theories have to be seen critically at the very least.

This would lead me to the single, but strong weakness of the album: Its sound. While I have to admit that it can be overlooked because of the quality of the song material, the production reminded me greatly of the works of Joey Sturgis (Emmure, Asking Alexandria, The Devil Wears Prada, you name it), one of the - in my ears - worst, yet seemingly most successful metalcore producers around. Joshua Wickman (Within the Ruins) gave this album a sound that is simply too artificial. The drums sound programmed, the guitars lack thickness and the bass - bass? Ha!

Needless to say that less than a half a year after the albums release, Ben Harclerode (drums) left the band and joined Whitechapel, once again leaving Knights of the Abyss on hiatus. Despite the album's shortcomings when it comes to its production, "The Culling of Wolves" still is as close to a deathcore masterpiece as I can imagine. I wish I could have seen / heard them outdo this, but to be honest - it's pretty great as a legacy as well.

Evolution at its finest - 85%

Kor1134, October 16th, 2011

My first band review so bare with me.

This album is, by far, my favorite KotA yet. Lyrically moderate and a little vague, mainly centered on abuse of power and social and economic oppression. Typical vocal style, deathcore screams and growls, however appropriate to the melody and style, though I prefer the vocal EQ from Juggernaut.

The entire album has a dark fantasy feel to it, like Castlevania style death metal, except raw and invigorating. An abundance of harmonized riffs and a saturated but gritty guitar sound. Clarity and EQ have been greatly improved for this album. They have, however, retained the progressive yet chaotic sequences that is Knights of the Abyss.

Lot's of double bass, rolls, and fills of various speeds and intensity. Not so innovative as some technical death metal drummers have become lately, but complimentary to the erratic timing of the rhythms.

Overall, I believe this album is an evolutionary success for the band. They certainly redeemed themselves after Shades, which in my opinion was somewhat of a failure. If you like KotA then this is a must have, unless you prefer the low/mid quality EQ sound, like Juggernaught.