The Walled City

In the latest issue of San Francisco magazine, I review the new album by Kowloon Walled City, the city’s best new metal band. These guys combine the aggression of Black Flag (sans Henry Rollins’ petulant moaning) with the sludgy grandeur of the Melvins, producing the aural equivalent of a primal scream. Check it out.

A band’s name is usually a clear indicator of its sound. (Really, could Cannibal Corpse play anything but metal?) This holds true for Kowloon Walled City, though you might not realize it at first. The San Francisco metal band takes its name from a famously dangerous Hong Kong neighborhood run by killers, drug dealers, and pimps–a sort of hell, in other words–and the group sounds satisfyingly like its name. Banging out a symphony of down-tuned guitars and turned-up amps, KWC harks back to similarly heavy forebears, like the Melvins, Helmet, and Oakland legends Neurosis. The band’s brutal debut EP last year earned it a spot at the gene¬≠rally metal averse Noise Pop Festival, and its first long-player only improves on the formula. The opening track, “Annandale,” sets the tone, with front man Scott Evans’ sandpapery croak slicing through the barrage of low-end riffs and hammer-fall drumming. A keen sense of dynamics keeps things interesting all the way through: “Paper Houses” swings like an undertaker on his way to the boneyard, and the cathartic closer, “More Like the Shit Factory,” features a chiming guitar that could almost be called pretty. But the idyll doesn’t last long–these guys have a name to live up to, after all.