Review: KNOWSO – Pulsating Gore (Sorry State Records, 2024)

Posted on: January 30, 2024
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By Nick Schurk //

The past ten or so years have been a buyer’s market for fans of weirdo post-punk. An ever-expanding scene of “egg punk”/DEVO-core bands, following the lead of acts like The Coneheads and Uranium Club, uses angular, alien guitar riffs and paranoid lyrics about technology’s forward march while consumerism plunges every other aspect of society into retrograde.

While the near-constant stream of bands that fit this mold hasn’t exactly worn out its welcome, the excitement in finding yet another group of these overly-caffeinated dweebs has dulled a bit. So it came as a huge surprise when in January (normally a barren wasteland for album releases) Cleveland, Ohio’s KNOWSO came from seemingly nowhere to give the genre a much-needed jolt.

Amidst this sea of weirdos, KNOWSO’s debut LP Pulsating Gore stands out. The title itself forewarns of an experience that transcends the typical cold, robotic imagery associated with post-punk, leaning more towards schlocky body horror. The ragged guitar riffs spread across each track throb with nervous energy like a creature in a Brian Yunza film—lurching, shambling, and oozing god knows what fluids. Death and dismemberment weave through the 11 songs, while demonically modulated vocals warn the listener of their ultimate fate in the “cycle of decay.”

Despite the nightmarish imagery, Pulsating Gore balances its intense themes with a dose of absurdist humor. Nathan Ward, the creative force behind KNOWSO, extends his distinctive style from his other bands (Cruelster and Perverts Again) using different punk subgenres as a platform to spotlight societal decay while offering unhinged comic relief. 

The album serves as an absurdist vehicle for Ward’s unstable narrator and his internal voices, who deliver rambling screeds against war, capitalism, and being treated like a baby. Rumors are circulated about Søren Kierkegaard’s anatomical quirks. Dads are dragged down to the lake and forced to “drink from the freshwater ocean.”

Pulsating Gore injects fresh vitality into the DEVO-core genre, proving its untapped potential amidst a densely populated scene. It highlights the genre’s untapped potential, demonstrating that there is ample room for exploration. KNOWSO invites us on an oddly enjoyable exploration of the absurdity in our decaying world.