Last updated: 02/16/2004 08:06:20 PM
Despite the obvious aesthetic and musical differences between Kaospilot and their fellow black metal countrymen, I imagine an essentialized assortment of comparisons are made between this Norwegian hardcore quintet and those ghoulish guys with the corpsepaint and angelic sky-shattering guitar licks. Ask anyone from Seattle, Chapel Hill, or Olympia: regional associations are nearly impossible to shake once the international media pigeonholes you, oversimplifying and repackaging your otherwise multivalent scene. Of course there're more to Norway than black metal, ice and low crime rates, but outside of the internationally recognized Mayhem-and-Burzum-influenced genre, Norway's biggest commercial musical exports are A-Ha and the insipid Kings of Convenience. Neither is very loud, even if the latter want us to believe dull emotional folk passes as having some sort of resonant volume. Other international hitmakers Röyksopp and Secret Garden offer moments of ethereal prettiness that could theoretically bloom-- lopsided-- in late-period Emperor, but that's pushing things a bit. So who's a critic gonna namedrop if not Immortal, et al?
More in the realm of Kaospilot's corpus is JR Ewing, a rattling post-hardcore band who released the excellent, sonically deconstructed Ride Paranoia on GSL a few months ago, but judging from Kaospilot's self-titled debut for Level-Plane, the band would rather consume American screamo's raw-throat yowling, quivering, utopian anarchy-lite lyrical animosity and cathartic slam-dance swizzle-stick breakdowns than take a nod from JR Ewing's inventive re-tooling of classic hardcore. Arming their fists with smashed bottles, Kaospilot sweats Orchid-styled rasp, lacking the seminal pre-Panthers band's ability to construct cogent political sound-bytes while cracking jokes about the Frankfurt School. Like far too many of their less interesting American hardcore counterparts, Kaospilot offer an unfocused agenda, spouting cliches about commodification, sexism, and oppressive governments without offering any possible solutions besides yelling and turning up the amps.
Plowing through tortured scribbles buried in a consistent haze of distorted guitars, most of the eleven tracks are indistinguishable. One of the more interestingly unsuccessful song ("Akathisia") raises an issue prevalent in black metal: "What happened to our culture?" Posing it as a larger, more universal query, the posit loses any specificity that could've otherwise turned it into an interesting diatribe. It jumps through so many cliched Crimethinc hoops, a cogent argument hasn't the space to breath a life of its own without getting restless leg syndrome and running out the door. "Akathisia" is the longest piece on the album, plodding for a seemingly interminable 4 whole minutes. When a dreamier moment introduces a break in the onslaught, with whispered female spoken word coupled with sporadic, echoey guitar strumming, the sonic room is appreciable, but unlike their black metal neighbors, when Kaospilot aren't going full-throttle (i.e. loud/soft/louder/soft/loudest/Jawbreaker coda), their musical attack is too one-dimensional and unnuanced to keep things interesting. With an approach this thin, it's all-all-all or just about nothing.
To be fair, Kaospilot offers a tight and soaringly adequate battle cry for newly agitated punks who kick it suburban-style at the Warped Tour, but the band's arguments and approach are so overplayed I can't muster a reason to bother listening otherwise. Perhaps if they'd swallowed some of the previously mentioned Norwegian color and incorporated battles-of-the-north bombast and/or multi-note precision into their tedious second-hand approach, Kaospilot wouldn't sound like every boring American hardcore band recycling an already anesthetic past. It doesn't matter where you're from-- screaming white guys with unkempt hair and black pocket tees don't cut it anymore.
-Brandon Stosuy, August 11th, 2003