Rob Swire and Gareth McGrillen, formerly two-thirds of Pendulum, but now comprising one hundred percent of the balls-to-the-wall EDM spectacle that is Knife Party, are back with a brand new EP under the latter moniker after more than a year and a half. And the title of this new album, Abandon Ship, is fitting, considering what a leaky project it has been. As fans no doubt already know, the duo have been consistently posting both snippets as well as entire songs from the album (including its first single, “Boss Mode”) since earlier this summer, far ahead of today’s official release.
But as fans who have been enjoying these sneak previews also have probably already concluded, this is decidedly not a typical or expected release from the dark and stormy drumstep duo, whose contribution to the proverbial “drop”—a term so ubiquitous with EDM and modern rave culture that Key and Peele even made it the focus of a hilarious skit—cannot be denied, no way, no how. Honestly, anyone between the ages of 18 and 30 to claim that they’ve never heard the line “you blocked me on Facebook, and now you’re going to die,” or to have completely lost his or her mind for the laser beam-infused, nuclear onslaught that immediately follows, must have rented out a sizeable rock back in 2010 (as we Millenials simply cannot afford to buy) and been living under it ever since. Indeed, other than Skrillex’s “Bangarang,” “Internet Friends” is probably the most recognizable (and arguably overplayed) hardstyle EDM song ever made. And the list of mosh-worthy Knife Party tunes hardly ends there; just to name a few others, “Centipede,” “Fire Hive,” “Rage Valley,” and “Bonfire” are all sure to bring your blood to a boil.
This is not to say that Knife Party completely shed their identity in Abandon Ship—so you can exhale, this isn’t going to be another Worlds (Porter Robinson fans know what this means). Several tracks bring the famous brand of fire-and-brimstone for which Knife Party is so famous, most acutely in “Give It Up,” which perhaps because it so clearly mimics another iconic Knife Party jam, the aforementioned “Bonfire,” has been the best-received among the group’s rabid fan base. Being fans ourselves, Rabbits would have to say that this is the best track on the album:
Another honorable mention in the department of hardstyle/drumstep is “404,” which features a number of iconic synth and computer sounds.
But otherwise, Knife Party has made a clear attempt on this album to emerge from the distinctly “Halloween-esque” habitat in which they’ve thrived the past few years (even going so far as to name their last album “Haunted House”). Okay, maybe that is just a slight overstatement considering that the cover art for Abandon Ship is distinctly orange and black, as well as the fact that the album was originally supposed to drop quite conspicuously at the end of October (though got held up for another month). Regardless, however, there is no way around that Knife Party has “taken a stab”—so to speak—at genres seemingly well outside their comfort zone. To wit, the duo forthrightly acknowledge as much toward the end of the album in a relentlessly upbeat and catchy jam, “Superstar,” which, just prior to the drop, features a robotic voice that poses the following: “Oh my God. What the fuck is this disco shit? What happened to the dubstep?”
Yet somehow Knife Party makes this foray into the unknown seem effortless, as if they’ve always had these tracks, or at least the ideas behind them, right in their back pockets (admittedly, given the number of years they’ve been at this, they probably have a lot more tricks up their sleeves). This is especially true for one song in particular: “Micropenis” (yup, you read that right). The song begins in somewhat typical fashion, featuring a brooding and slightly demonic vocal track, and even opens with a sample of a door knock, perhaps as an homage to “Internet Friends.” However, the drop comes straight out of left field, pulling the listener into a syncopated and richly layered tech house groove that one might expect from a deadmau5 set. Melody is used sparingly; rather, what drives the track are about 7 differently pitched percussive sounds.
Knife Party gave it their all in Abandon Ship, setting sail for uncharted territories while still providing some of their old school flavor. You can listen to the album in full below:
Rabbits’ Score: 4.5/5