Tiny Knives' 'Black Haze' Is a Crass Record for People Who Love the Melvins

Stream the Portland trio's loud, grungy, anarcho-punk-meets-riot-grrl Eolian Empire debut.

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Feb 3 2016, 5:39pm

Tiny Knives sounds like nothing else that's going on in music right now, which is a pretty massive feat for any band, let alone one with such a slim discography. Black Haze marks the band's third release (and their first for Portland label Eolian Empire), and it's one hell of a challenging, fascinating record.

They proudly fly the riot grrl flag, but, like any good self-described anarcho-punks, Tiny Knives also obviously have a close, personal relationship with Crass. I hear a ton of Penis Envy in Black Haze, from its political bite and dark punk riffs right down to the song "The Fuck" (a reference to Crass' "What the Fuck," perhaps?) and the pseudo-British tinge in vocalist/guitarist Jai Milx's barbaric yawp on tracks like "Cowschwitz". I suppose it goes without saying that the latter release is much, much heavier, though—the guitar tone alone could sink a battleship, and that's without even mentioning the utterly tectonic bass that hangs high, dominating the mix.

The trio—rounded out by bassist Ursula Morton, and drummer Jamey Anderson—pad out their sharp anarcho-punk corners with shards of noise rock, hardcore, and early grunge (think Melvins and Screaming Trees, not Kurt's pretty face). Milx careens between guttural rasps, hoarse roars, gritted-teeth spoken word, a husky croon (see the breathless vocal harmonies on the discomfitingly pretty opening of "Lights in the Sky"). On tracks like the frantic, snotty ""Magic Xians", she lets fly a piercing Eve Libertine yelp and fuzzy '77 chords atop Anderson's martial beat and Morton's loose, rollicking bass line. The overall effect is of dire urgency—Black Haze often sounds in danger of collapsing in on itself, with the Tiny Knives egging each other on, harder, faster, louder, meaner. The furious, schizophrenic intensity of the heavy parts lets the album's melodic passages catch you entirely off guard, and leave you off-kilter.

This dynamic discomfort is obviously intentional, though, because Tiny Knives doesn't give a fuck about your feelings. They care about animal rights, about war, about love and death and pain. They've got something to say, and they're here to shove it down your lily-livered throat. "Somewhere, some being isn't suffering, but it's not here."

Preorders are available here, and the official vinyl release date is February 5. Stream Black Haze in its brutal entirety below: