Blood In The Water – The Cruel Knives’ Side Two Review

There are two sides to every story and those of The Cruel Knives seem to walk hand in hand. But if Side One was the appetizer, Side Two is the main course and dessert altogether. 

For those who are not familiar with the band, The Cruel Knives are Tom Harris on the lead vocals, Sid Glover (ex-Heaven’s Basement) on the guitar, Rob Ellershaw (ex-Heaven’s Basement) on the bass and Al Junior on the drums. In 2017 the band released their first EP Side One, a handful of loud songs which left their fans craving for more. And here we are, it’s 2019 and the other side of the record has been released just a few days ago, so this means we are more than ready to talk about it! 

For those who instead are not familiar with my identity, you should know I have been running The Cruel Knives Italia, the band’s one and only official Italian fan club since forever. Is this review going to be biased? Most definitely yes. But if you think I am just sponsoring this band because I have to, then you would be utterly wrong. These lads have got the right stuff and if you don’t believe me just go to a show or listen to their music, I’ll just wait here. I’m one of those people who love to say “I told you so”. 

Enough with the chit-chat, I am ready to introduce you to the itch you can’t scratch and the main character of this story: Side Two

The premises of Side Two are pretty clear in Black Eye Friday, starting from a nervous intro with an unpredictable, yet intriguing choice of timing leading to a twitchy riff and vocals. All the tension finally explodes in the chorus, a true liberation we can feel through Tom’s insanely high and raging voice. So just be prepared because by the end of the record you will leave not only with a black eye but with most of your bones broken. 

Hollow People is the perfect song: simple everything. Every clever man on Earth should acknowledge that less is more; so many bands built their success on simple but memorable riffs and Hollow People is certainly no exception. It’s no wonder why the band chose this song for their very first official video and to be the face of Side Two, a very pretty and captivating face which is hard to resist.

Do you know when you’re listening to a song and the damn chorus sticks in your head on loop? Can you relate? Good, because this is the case of If This Is The End (I’ve Been A Fool From The Start). A consistent foot-stomping riff dominates until the grand entrance of the chorus with one of the best lyrics I’ve ever heard. That’s right, I expect to find you at the tattoo shop having your chest inked with the catchphrase “I found God, but I’m not part of his plan”.  This song doesn’t just feature the perfect recipe for a tasty hit, but a dramatic special takes over dragging in a strong grunge mood. Unexpected, emotionally challenging, but also very beautiful. Like a thunderstorm that makes everything dark before the sun can shine again. 

Maybe I Should Know is one hell of a song. It sounds great on record and even better live, and this usually happens when a tune is very well done. It’s a wild animal that runs free, fast and fierce, with the incredible desire of leaving permanent scratch marks on your back. Rob’s sharp bassline interweaves with Al’s banging drums, both paving the way for Sid’s stabbing riffs which will immediately lacerate your mortal flesh. I know, these Cruel Knives ain’t joking.

Get ready to pour some salt into your open wounds as you approach Blood In The Water. Maybe the most complex song of Side Two if we consider the compositional framework and the dynamic, but still not difficult for the listener to process. It’s like taking a strong medicine in one tiny pill, a complex network of substances made it simple. I have been dying to talk about backing vocals throughout the article because I wanted to focus on them here. Lead vocals and backing vocals mingle perfectly in all the other songs, but it’s in Blood In The Water that the magic happens. The Cruel Knives picked the right chemicals in order to create a big huge explosion in the chorus. They align all the emotions in the bridge and then, BANG! I will not lie, I think I cried the first time I listened to this song and I dare you not to do the same. 

With On A Leash, we go back to a groovy song, slower but angry as the devil in person. Never actually met the devil? This is your lucky day! The Cruel Knives will personally train you for that dreadful day and they will not do it discretely. Dark swinging riffs will lead you through a slowly unveiled chorus and a hypnotic guitar solo. That’s right, The Cruel Knives will be your Virgil in your very personal hell and good luck with that.

Livid, frenetic, one last cut before you drop dead on the floor. Crawl was the first song of Side Two to be released and the last one on the tracklist, the beginning and the end at the same time. It’s rare to find something so powerful that can play more than one role, but Crawl seems to fit in just naturally. Tom’s vocals call for battle, but after Sid’s signal, what they unleash is a goddamn war. And no, there is nothing you can do about it. Grab a helmet and a weapon and just pray you won’t end up in a mosh pit during this song. A door-slamming tune like Crawl is The Cruel Knives’ way of saying “Thank you for listening” and to conclude such a brilliant record.

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