Knights of the Abyss

The Culling of Wolves

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Death metal's detractors can say what they will -- they can complain that many of the vocalists render the lyrics difficult or impossible to understand or that a lot of death metal isn't very musical, both of which are valid points -- but never let it be said that there is a shortage of chops in death metal. The truth is that death metal is full of musicians who have strong chops and have clearly taken the time to master their instruments. And when the material in question is technical death metal, chops are an absolute must because material this complex is not easy to play. The Culling of Wolves, which is the third album by Arizona's Knights of the Abyss, is a good example of the sort of virtuosity that technical death metal has to offer; the bandmembers wouldn't have been able to pull off this much technicality and angularity if they hadn't spent some time in the shed, as jazz musicians would say ("the shed" is a jazz term that means practice, practice, and more practice). Of course, the fact that material is complex doesn't necessarily mean that it is great material -- and this 2010 recording, like the Arizonans' previous releases, is dominated by tunes that are well played but not terribly memorable. It should be noted that Knights of the Abyss have had quite a few lineup changes since their formation in 2005; the 2010 lineup includes lead singer Logan "Harley Magnum" Kavanaugh, guitarist Brian McNulty, bassist Griffin Kolinski, and drummer Ben Harclerode. And with the personnel changes has come a somewhat different sound. In the past, Knights of the Abyss favored a vicious, abrasive blend of technical metalcore and technical death metal with occasional hints of black metal; The Culling of Wolves is mainly technical death metal, but with a lot of black metal-style vocals (Kavanaugh fluctuates between a guttural Cookie Monster growl and a high-pitched black metal rasp). The metalcore factor is still there, although it's less prominent than before. But the more things change, the more they stay the same -- and while the musicianship on The Culling of Wolves is impressive, Knights of the Abyss still need stronger, more memorable songs to go with all their virtuosity and pyrotechnics.

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