Dreams and Devastation – KnightressM1 (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

When you get to the heavier end of the music spectrum there seems to be as many genres as there are bands, which sort of proves just how pointless they are in the first place. So you can argue all you want about which this-core, alt-that or post-other box KnightressM1 fit into, at the end of the day you might as well just broaden your mind, open your ears and work it out for yourself. Or better still, ignore such childish notions. Do that and you will realise that this is a band which it was never going to be possible to pigeon-hole anyway…so why try?

Dreams and Devastation is the debut album from this Oakland trio and if previous offerings such as Lock and Key offered a glimpse into their sonic world, it quickly becomes obvious that it was indeed only a glimpse. Beguiling and unique as that single was, and as good a point from which to start your explorations, what comes next is truly awesome.

Songs such as SuperNova is worth the cost of the album alone, a delicate balance of the raw power and precision beat-bombing by the rhythm section, the exquisite and meandering melodies of the violin, occasionally sitting back behind the groove, sometimes leading it in a headlong charge, and the poise and power of Emily Palen’s dexterous vocals.

And from that core sound they are able to fire off various salvos in many different directions, from the funky chops of Raising Light to the subtle and sweeping grandeur of Desolation Heartbreak, from the tension and energy which ebbs and flow through Polarity Integrate to the hushed and intricate space-noise echoes from which Stars From My Sky seems to be wrought.

Rather than say what this album is, it’s almost easier to say what it isn’t. It isn’t quite metal, its cleverer than that, swerving obvious sonic tropes in favour of defter melodics. It isn’t quite alt-rock, indeed it seems to happily building an alternative to the alternative whilst those identikit indie-kid-rockers are still checking their complicated hair and designer labels in the mirror. It certainly isn’t pop but is as infectious as anything that you will find surfing the zeitgeist today. It’s wonderfully dark but avoids gothic cliche, it is certainly rock but it is smart, sophisticated and switched on. If it is rock then it is rock with a PhD. 

And the neat thing is it does all of this without a guitar, Emily Palen proving that not only is her violin as expressive, creative and mesmerising as anything that the usual low-slung lead players have to offer, that she can do it all with only two-thirds of the strings.

Four strings good. Six-strings bad! That’s my new mantra.

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