Grace Shaker

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After a series of financial windfalls and failed label ventures, Michael Knott, something of a cult icon, returned to Alarma Records, who had released Shaded Pain seven years previous. Rumors had begun circulating about Knott's struggles with alcohol addiction, and Grace Shaker did nothing to quell them. A record soaked in booze and smelling of stale cigarettes, Grace Shaker documents a back-and-forth struggle with substance abuse, ping-ponging endlessly between sin and redemption. Unfortunately, it is Knott's least-compelling record musically. Perhaps feeling the need to stick to more easily consumable (and profitable) music forms, Knott sands all of L.S.U.'s jagged edges, offering radio-ready modern rock songs like "Kill Will" and a fair share of plaintive acoustic ballads. Knott's application of these two extremes is also distressingly predictable, using the rock songs to sing of addiction and the folk songs to sing of absolution. Brian Doidge has been shifted from lead guitar to bass, but his replacement, Andrew Carter, possesses none of his fire and zeal. With the exception of the raucous punk rock anthem "Freedom," Grace Shaker feels strangely staid and distressingly predictable.

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