Usually it takes me a month or so to feel comfortable reviewing a new album, but since I’ve been listening to The Knight on the Shark (2013) incessantly since it was released last week, I’m making an exception. I loved the previous Schizofrantik album, Oddities, and I’m happy to report that this is a spectacular follow-up.
This German group’s distinctive sound is an unexpected and intense blend of styles, including funk, djent, jazz, metal, and progressive, and like Oddities you can hear snippets of influence from bands like King Crimson, Mr. Bungle, and Primus. They also continue to be rhythmically complex, if not perverse: dropping in extra beats, layering rhythms atop one another, and generally keeping the listener unbalanced. My favorite tracks here tend to be the more complicated ones, like the opening track, “The Knight on the Shark Beside the Ship Which is Not Sunken Yet,” a disorienting Zappaesque epic full of twisty melodies and unpredictable changes of pace and style. Also impressive is “Psychic Scars,” an infectious composition of dark passages and intricate, sinister guitar interplay which opens moodily before accelerating into an absurdly intense stretch of polyrhythmic djent-funk. But to me the highlight is “Nazis on LSD,” a mad blend of intense prog metal that sounds terrifyingly like its title.
Perhaps moreso than Oddities, this album makes concessions to rhythmic accessibility. “The Human Slaughter Tango” mashes up groovy beats and macabre power chords before spinning incongruously into a traditional accordion solo. The cheerful lope of “Marching Through the Meadow” and the introspective guitar showcase “Thanx Dog” are practically conventional compared to some of the other tracks. They have their charms, but I prefer the crazier stuff.
Overall it’s a diverse and surprising collection, and I’m kind of hopelessly hooked on it. Below is the video for “Liquid Light,” which is a pretty great example of Schizofrantik’s various sensibilities. Awesome stuff that I expect will remain in my heavy rotation for a long time.