Portugal pugilists Kneel is the solo project of multi-instrumentalist and producer Pedro Mau, formerly of the band Kneeldown. His first solo endeavour was the album Interstice seven years ago, so this sophomore release has been a while in the making. Pedro remains a part of Wells Valley and this album sees him turn to his bandmate (and Concealment guitarist/vocalist) Filipe Correia for a little vocal support.
Kneel’s sonic stance is very much in the hardcore camp, with his sinew-straining, eyes-popping approach reminiscent of Hatebreed’s incomparable Jamey Jasta. Musically this album rests firmly on Pedro’s shoulders but he evidences early on that they’re broad enough for the task. A mighty forceful chug played out towards the end of the fire cracking opener ‘Qualm’ is testament to that.
He again finds a satisfying groove to launch ‘Awry,’ over which we’re quickly pinned back by a blastbeat avalanche while Pedro’s authoritarian barrack-room vocals are straight from the parade ground. The album takes on a few inner demons, winning most of the battles along the way, with some crushing displays of rhythmic battery brought to the surface throughout.
At times the metalcore algorithms become more challenging, entering math metal territory and Meshuggah fans would certainly find some of the occasionally divergent grooves to their taste. Like the Swede’s ferocious frontman Jens Kidmen, Pedro rarely takes his eyes of the prize.
Although pretty much taking the shortest route to the jugular on each of these 10 tracks there are occasional shifts in tone and pace such as on the doomier ‘Dys’.
At times Pedro appears strangulated in a tight whirlwind in which he struggles to make sense of the challenges we face, describing Ailment as an ache that can lead to dreadful consequences. That intestine-twisting torment is to the fore on the likes of the asinine ‘Abacination’ in which chaotic discourse at times renders the listener seeking shelter.
You definitely need a firm stomach if you’re going to last the full 10 rounds with the Portuguese powerhouse. Little in the way of light relief is forthcoming as he seeks to maximise the bodyblows throughout, final number ‘Acuity’ making for a predictably bumpy final ride. If you need to let off steam then it’s time to bend down and Kneel.
Ailment was released via Raging Planet/Planet K on 16 October 2020
Review by Paul Castles