Have you ever been glad that a release was only 15 minutes long? Not because it was bad, but simply because it was so damn heavy that to experience even a minute more was to put your health at risk? Something so strong that to be imbued with any more of its power would mean seeing your muscles triple in size and burst through your skin, but you’re so hyped up you wouldn’t even notice the pain of a fleshless existence?
“Godplay” starts us off with a slow bend in the opening riff that provides a groove and tone that Meshuggah bled into hardcore back in the early 2000s with bands like The Acacia Strain. It doesn’t take long for the song to pick up the pace to a hardcore run before the first big breakdown of the EP hits hard with a slight wobble and notes that sit in the ear a teensy bit long to help everything feel loose rather than robotic. Then, of course, they manage to break down the breakdown and take the beating to a caveman crawl before turning on a dime to launch back into the intro riff.
The Great Dying follows that blueprint for the remainder of its runtime. The breakdowns offer a solid variety and even when they hit their slowest and become a bit more stereotypical, Know//Suffer manages to throw in little bits of flavor that keep it spicy. “Thumbnail” starts with some eerie notes before thundering rhythms come in just before the bomb drops. At the one-minute mark, the song punches ears with another beastly breakdown, but there are miniature tremolo runs happening that add a different element. It’s like you’ve been being served nothing but uppercuts so far, but then those notes throw in a couple of quick double-jabs to knock you off your feet. “Scarecrow” barks up another hardcore trope with a spoken word passage in one ear while the guitar chugs in the other. The final breakdown of the track is also made all the more potent by being preceded by a passage dominated by rollicking drums and wobbly guitars. The chaos clears for the beating and those open notes feel like a huge release from the descent into madness.
“Vertigo” opens with stomping notes that sound like a Kaiju entering a city and when the music fully kicks in, said monster has begun laying waste to civilization. “Balances” comes on with rolling snares from Joseph James punctuated by some pounding kicks and just as it hits its zenith, the sound all cuts out and vocalist Toast Williams unleashes an absolutely nasty “eeeeeyyauch” sound that is guaranteed to get your attention. The song brings back those wobbly guitars and the riff seems to continually bend into itself with each repetition. The title track brings our affair a close and comes out racing with the fastest passage of the whole EP and even a very brief little lead. At 1:45, the song stomps into an absolutely monstrous start-stop breakdown where each hit comes with a slight variation or drumming accompaniment. Just when you think it can’t get heavier they drop concrete on your head by breaking that down into just a simple open-note crush.
Know//Suffer do an excellent job of never letting any single part or element of their music overstay its welcome. Breakdowns drop off before they get boring, are colored with subtle shifts to keep them interesting, and they let the music either devolve or gel into speed just when you need it. Williams is another standout aspect of the band. His approach isn’t quite the typical tough guy shout you associate with this genre. There’s a bit of pain that bleeds into his voice that matches the less polished sound exceptionally well. The Great Dying feels like a catharsis for Williams and it makes for a much more impactful listening experience.
Being glad that an excellent release is only 15 minutes is a bit of a facetious opener. If you’re like me, you’ll actually be looking for more and luckily Know//Suffer had a 2019 full–length that will pulverize your weak bones for another 20 minutes.