Album Review: The Phallic Malice EP, by Knife*Death

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If The Short Histories of Powerful Nations had a tongue-in-cheek doppelganger, it would have to be Knife*Death. While the former flies in the face of metal convention with revisionist-historian lyrics and walking-megaphone intensity, neither of which fit the genre’s mold, the latter band slaps convention in the back of the head and runs away laughing. Knife*Death is, in spirit, a sort of modern-day local-metal Spinal Tap-meets-Primus, mocking and undermining metal cliches while wearing its way-too-serious face on The Phallic Malice EP. It’s a tough line they’re walking, underpinning the six songs here with tight, clever playing and juxtaposing it with a healthy, if at times boyish, sense of humor.

That humorousness will likely wear off with time–comedy CDs lose their lustre when you see the jokes coming, too–but what the band’s sustainable is that the music is unconventional and well arranged. Was that chimes and organ you just heard in “Eternal Hell Slumber?” Sure enough; not instruments you expect to hear dressing loud, pounding metal music. Of course, the band balances such instrumental diversification with a proclamation about the band’s collective penis sizes immediately before in “The Ballad of Knife*Death,” you know, so you don’t think they’re getting all artsy or something.

The real comedic classics on The Phallic Malice EP are “The Clap” (“How I yearn for you. Now I burn for you” is just one hysterical line) and the album-ending “Hellboy,” a tribute to the comic-turned-movie that opens with singer Dakota Galloway giving a spoken-/shouted-word intro before the band explodes into guitar-bass-and-drums freakout ending in the sound of chimes. Yes, chimes. We said this band was unconventional, didn’t we?

Ironically, it’s the one song on the album not trying to be funny at all–the five-minute instrumental “Hot Dolphin,” the fifth track–that best points out why the album is worth repeated listening. The band’s sense of humor may have a shelf life with some listeners, but its ability to out-metal bands that do take playing metal seriously is what wins the band its live audience and will be what keeps The Phallic Malice EP in a CD rotation. Knife*Death won’t win every metal fan over with this album, but the ones they do will be with them all the way.

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