Bent Knee is a band I knew nothing of before November, 2018. We had tickets to see Leprous and Haken (!!!!!) live at a club in downtown Montreal, and I was really. really. really. pumped and excited for that. The opener was Bent Knee, and the hubs kept telling me they were great, but I was still busy obsessing over Haken’s The Mountain and Leprous’ Coal. Haken is my co-favorite band at this point, so touching almost anything else felt somehow sacrilegious.
The night before the show, I pulled up Land Animals to see what this opener was going to sound like. And yea, holy crap, I wish I had listened to the hubs earlier. I was really blown away in the best sense.
Bent Knee is classified as “art rock” so it’s not technically metal, but don’t be fooled, this stuff can get very heavy. That being said, you cannot pigeonhole the band into any single genre – they move through sounds like a fish through water. When you listen, you can expect darker themes, intentional dissonance and “noise”. Their songs plummet seamlessly into delicate, piercing pieces of melodic bliss and beauty, followed by hard heavy rage and fear, finally seguing back to beautiful heavy rock. Try this on for size.
Their latest single, “Catch Light”, really delivers on what I like most about this band. The music is fantastic, varied, and highly textured. A deep-yet-muted, thumpy bass/guitar line and quiet-yet-persistent drums open, with Courtney’s amazing voice about 20 seconds in, followed by a chiming clear synth that adds brightness.
Deep and rich, Courtney makes even the idea of elbows touching alluring, sensual, and taboo. A strum of muffled strings add in the texture I’m talking about. And after the tense restraint of the opening, the band lets loose and they combine the talents of each player into more than the sum of their parts, truly. Like the Justice League, only better.
A couple bits struck me in particular. At 1:06 or so, the guitar and synth tones are so harsh even as they let the rest of the song move into a happier sound. Right about two minutes in, the mic noises and Courtney’s slowly swelling voice combine with really heavy and dissonant guitar and an extra-long pause build a great tension. The following chorus is so joyful and celebratory that the bits of grating, uneasy music before and after punch home. These changes in sound add the deep emotional and musical contrast Bent Knee’s songs usually encompass.
As a single, this song gets me pretty antsy for the full album. It’s more musical gold from a group in a genre I haven’t even begun exploring yet. I have personally never heard a band with this level of variation in sound that still kept some sort of (strange) consistence musically. And that is a fine line to walk – variety, but not randomness. A concept and sound with enough facets to explore without losing vision and coherency. I love it. Something else will likely get booted from my current playlist to make room for this. Bent Knee’s single – “Catch Light” – listen to it!