Since the blog had its death in early 2013, three years worth of music that I have enjoyed is sorely missing a written appreciation. Right around March 2012, I was feverishly excited to learn that Justin Trosper and Brandt Sandeno (ex-members of Unwound) had begun playing live in a band called Survival Knife. In the hands of fate though, they would not release their 7" single Traces Of Me/Name That Tune until exactly a year later on March 2013. By then of course, the blog was all but buried and I was not able to give an approximation of how much I loved the single, the following Divine Mob/Snakebit 7-inch, their sole album Loose Power, and how I thought their Survivalized EP was a shoddy collection of odds and sods.
But aside from diverging this into becoming an entire breakdown of the band’s small discography (I will attempt it some day), I wanted to focus on what I consider is one of their strongest tracks entitled “Cut The Quick”. Starting off with the click of a distant harpsichord, the song enters a slow burning 4/4 trudge with a riff progression reminiscent of Challenge for a Civilized Society. But where the late-career Unwound would focus on atmospherics and layers of unique instrumentation, Survival Knife focuses its collaborative songwriting in a more emotional and straightforward fashion.
The song itself has a song structure reminiscent of Polvo if they were slowed down about 50% (see: “City Birds”) and were half as long and complex. But instead of dizzying riffs and frequent tempo changes, Survival Knife allows for “Cut The Quick” to build its tension during its introductory verses, release some “false” tension during the first refrain, enter an uplifting second verse, release the “real” tension (“STOP CUTTING YOURSELF DOWN!”), have a louder noise break, enter the guitar solo outro, and end on an acoustic guitar/banjo/harpsichord instrumental piece. Much like sister song “Roman Fever”, “Cut The Quick” is more audibly influenced by guitar-based progressive rock and the more adventurous sounds of late-70’s rock.
Yet, it is crucial to understand the most radical shift that Survival Knife introduces is that we hear Trosper loud and clear, front and center. While Unwound’s lyrics were typically abstract and passionately sung/shouted, an audibly older Justin Trosper now sadly intones: “A letter from an alien/Never to be read/By anyone/Sorry about the things I did/Couldn’t find my way/In this world we live.” It is a sign of maturation in a way, where he would previously mask his voice by layers of distorted guitar in the early years or by studio effect trickery in the end, listeners are treated to the full blow of musical inertia in his voice. It seems progression is stripping things back to all muscle and sinew.
Sadly. at present it appears that the band is defunct since their website is down, they have not made any updates since exactly last year (June 2015), and pleas asking about the status of the band have been left unanswered. I was lucky enough to catch them live twice, and genuinely hope they return to make enjoyable and relevant rock music. Purchase Loose Power HERE.