The prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, has certainly birthed a fair number of successful musicians. Mike Portnoy, John Myung, and John Petrucci formed Dream Theater while studying there, as did their keyboardist, Derek Sherinian.
Another band that can add themselves to Berklee’s list of alumni is Bent Knee. Guitarist Ben Levin and vocalist Courtney Swain formed the band while studying at the college, and they definitely show the signs of their education in their music, as is proved on their fifth studio album, ‘You Know What They Mean’.
The album opens with an odd track, ‘Lansing’, which is seemingly a live recording of a technical difficulty at the start of a show. Somehow, this transitions perfectly into the first song proper, ‘Bone Rage’, starting with a slow industrial-style guitar part. This then blossoms into a fast driving guitar riff with a subtle drumbeat, while Swain‘s voice cuts through it like a knife.
‘Hold Me In’ opens with a funky drum beat, and when the instrumentation kicks in, it sounds like Amy Winehouse dropped an acid tab before venturing into the studio. It sounds weird, but that is in no way a bad thing.
The intriguingly-titled ‘Egg Replacer’ opens with a sustained synthesiser while a guitar is plucked softly in the background. Once the synth subsides, the vocals come in, and it turns into musical hypnosis. Swain‘s voice, paired with the almost soothing quality of the guitar, make it almost hallucinogenic. Then it brings you back to reality again when the guitar gets heavy and the drums pound their way in with a metal chorus.
On closing track, ‘It Happens’, the weird percussion is brought back to open a build-up featuring a guitar, a violin, and an 8-bit synth, which grows into a more laid back verse, before a heavier build-up, which, anti-climactically, reverts back to the violin riff from the intro. The song switches through entirely different segments throughout its run time, giving a cleverly uneasy feel.
If you had any expectations coming into listening to ‘You Know What They Mean’, it’s probably best to throw them away. It’s clear that Bent Knee don’t care about them, they just want to play whatever the hell they want to play.
20/All things Scottish Rock/Emo/Metal