Knows No Kindness is a bittersweet reminder that you can never go home again.
In Native American mythology, moths “not only represent rebirth, change, transformation, resurrection, and the power of regeneration, but they also teach us that darkness and light are integrated co-creative life forces.” As such, there could not be a more fitting symbol than the illustrated moths featured prominently on the artwork for Knows No Kindness, the second full-length album by Toronto band Casper Skulls.
One could point to several transformations Casper Skulls have undergone since their last record, 2017’s Mercy Works. Diverging from their previously established post-punk-meets-shoegaze sound, the band takes the road less travelled and embraces a broader folky mysticism that is more Neil Young and less Sonic Youth. Knows No Kindness is the first album where Melanie St-Pierre provides the primary vocals on all tracks. She flourishes by showcasing a versatile voice capable of expressing a litany of feelings. Overall, the sound is lighter, but it carries the weight of devastating emotional heaviness. It is also the first album to feature new drummer Aurora Bangarth.
Knows No kindness is not so much an album as it is a scrapbook. It is a life examined. A collection of St-Pierre’s memories, ruminations, photos, and illustrations set to music that simulates a rural Canadian winter so well that you can almost see your breath while you listen. Each of the ten tracks on Knows No Kindness is a snapshot of a crystallized moment of St-Pierre’s upbringing in Massey and Sudbury, Ontario, underpinned by an adept band of dexterous musicians.
Tumbling forward on notes that billow like smoke and hang in the winter air, the album’s first single, “Thesis,” encompasses the entirety of emotions on Knows No Kindness. Lyrically, it pays homage to a high school English teacher who encouraged St-Pierre in her poetry and creative writing aspirations, eventually leading her to songwriting.
“Witness” is an intensely personal song that unflinchingly details having to testify after witnessing the murder of her friend’s father when she was young. The lilt in St-Pierre’s voice, almost trembling as she weaves the narrative, is a sure tell that actual events inform these songs.
Listening to Knows No Kindness reminds me of the adage that “you can’t go home again” because time has a way of changing things, and the home you remember will not be the same place when you return.