The Book of Knots: 'Garden of Fainting Stars'

The Book of Knots

Garden of Fainting Stars (Ipecac)

Though it's being released during summer's stranglehold, it's difficult to imagine anybody using the Book of Knots' Garden of Fainting Stars as the soundtrack for a barbecue. This third studio album from the experimental Brooklyn quartet (augmented by a series of famous guests like vocalist freak Mike Patton) is a more fitting mood-setter for a decadent art show in hell.

"Microgravity" opens the album in thrilling fashion, drop-Z guitars snarling like feral cats over face-melting fuzz bass, arena-ready drums, and a totally random NASA sample. Vocalist Carla Kihlstedt provides much-welcome melodic relief, but it doesn't last long—the rule of thumb on Garden is "the more ridiculous, the better." "Drosophilia Melanogaster" is a litmus test of freakishness that I can't say I'll ever listen to (or pronounce) again, what with its atonal violin screech and pseudo-creepy coffeehouse spoken-word rant. It's a bumpy, hot-and-cold voyage, and just when you're ready to hit eject, the band throws out a totally engrossing track like "Moondust Must," which builds atmosphere by fidgeting through screeches and scrapes, colorful guitar fragments shooting sparks through the stereo spectrum. "Moondust tastes like gunpowder," they sing, nearly approaching catchiness with the most unlikely hook in history.

There's too much gothic, abstract pussyfooting on extended, aimless interludes like "Lissajous Orbit." But at their best (and most focused), Book of Knots sounds like a unique group of freaks pushing the boundaries of art-metal. At their sloppiest, they sound like the bastard child of Tool and Frank Zappa scoring the latest installment of Saw. Book of Knots are chasing some visionary shit on Garden of Fainting Stars, but occasionally, you just wish they'd stop trying so hard.