Radiant Knife’s Progressive Sludge Attack: After The Body Comes “The Ghost” (EP Premiere)
There was a time when prog rock and double albums went hand in hand, but as it always does, change had to come. Blame shortened attention spans, shifting tastes, or a general disdain for triple live albums: punk rock brevity killed the prog beast. As the decades passed and genre walls crumbled, unholy alliances formed. Grunge, sludge, black ‘n roll -- pick your poison. Prog-sludge (or is it sludge-prog?) is another hybrid that seems counterintuitive at first pass, but as metal found out in the early 2000s, when it works it REALLY works.
This brings us to Lafayette duo Radiant Knife, rising from the Louisiana swamps that birthed sludge metal and repurposing it with their own cocktail of prog and post-rock flourishes. 2020 found the band -- Stephen Sheppert (guitars/vocals/synths) and Greg Travasos (drums/percussion) -- with a pile of great songs that fit two different molds; a double EP of sorts was conceived, with The Body being released in late August and The Ghost, streaming here in full, coming out on October 9th.
Sheppert said of the two releases: "Although different, they are very much connected and…should be listened to one after the other to get the full picture of what Radiant Knife is about." That contrast comes into play quickly, as a spin of The Body showcases a handful of short, punchy tracks that recall Keelhaul and early Mastodon.
The Ghost, however, leaves the physical world behind while the band stretches their legs and gets supernatural. Leadoff track "The Grand Decay" sets the scene with big, open acoustic guitars and Sheppert adopting a light, slightly ethereal singing style. This dovetails into "True Believers", a song that's as beautifully written as it is executed, reminiscent of Cave In's major label days and Torche when they indulge their pop sensibilities. When the synths are utilized, it is to augment not overpower; the songs still work without them, but they are better with them.
The duo start their stretching on "Dark Horizon", extending the song lengths and digging into the breadth of what ‘power of the riff' can mean. A central melody holds the song in place, while washes of synths and an acoustic break dance lightly around it. This becomes a theme for the back half of The Ghost, where the band establishes a heavy, steady foundation and then goes off to explore the outer reaches of space rock and beyond. "Surrender" begins with more stellar acoustic work from Sheppert, breaks open into big, atmospheric riffs and echo-drenched vocals, then reverts back again, giving off strong Alice In Chains vibes without quite approaching that band's heights.
But to continue the parallels, The Ghost is more Jar Of Flies than Dirt in its sparse but meticulous layering and clean delineation. Radiant Knife have carved themselves a nice, idiosyncratic corner in the metal spectrum, and are quickly becoming masters of their domain.
The Ghost EP releases October 9th, 2020. Preorders available via Bandcamp.