Album Review: Desolation by Khemmis
And we’re back for some good ‘ol fashion heavy metal this week, kids! When all else fails, you can always fall back on heavy metal. It’s there for you. From Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden to Slayer and Cannibal Corpse and all the new and little obscure bands in between that we love. It’s never going anywhere. As much as we all love the classic stuff, I feel its still vital that we stay in the loop with “new” metal bands and keep supporting the community that’ll never die.. ‘cuz thats what we do. All for one and one for all. It’s only rock n roll. You know what I mean. So, when a new band like Khemmis comes along with a critically-acclaimed third record, Desolation, off the heels of their excellent second record, Hunted; I am beyond all ears. Does it hold up to the success and awesomeness of their previous and live up to the hype? Yes and no, I say. Dig this…
As I mentioned above, I really loved Khemmis second record, Hunted. I thought it was a huge improvement from their “not bad but nothing really special” first release, Absolution. But, that’s about as far as my fandom ran for them. I thought it was a really good record, listened to it a few times, it was intriguing, catchy, and heavy and atmospheric enough to keep me excited about it for a while… and thats pretty much it. I put it down and seldom revisited for no good reason other than just was exploring new music or going back and jamming to the classics. So, I more or less forgot about them. Therefore, this new record, Desolation, slapped me in the face like fat bag of wolf bones and bloody swords. Damn! How did I forget about Khemmis!? The Colorado doom/stoner/epic metal warriors have returned for another around and I found myself quite unprepared for it. So what did I do? Suited up with a bunch of ancient armor and went on a trek deep into the Pittsburgh wilderness and started slaying imaginary creatures? Wait, what? No! I totally did NOT. Ever. I actually just went back and listened to their first two records again to get myself reacquainted with vibe of Khemmis, and was not disappointed that I did so. Until this record came around, anyway. Because I was prepared and ready to ROCK. But, what this record provided was not quite as much rock as I was hoping for…
The opening track, Bloodletting, is pretty much a perfect opening track for Desolation. It’s not too long, it’s not too short, it’s not too much of one thing or the other, its just good. And it does a great job of setting the tone for the record; melodic. Which is totally cool, mind you, it’s just not as heavy or the catchy “doom metal” as I was expecting.. and that more or less is true for the whole record. But, I’ll say this now, at first I was disappointed. The more I listened to it, I was not. Far from it, actually. It become very clear that Khemmis were not here to destroy you with heaviness and insanity, there’s plenty of that elsewhere. Desolation represents a place in time that the band grew more progressive, musically. Broadening their horizons to conquer more tribes and expand their territory, if you will. And this song, Bloodletting, is a solid representation of that. The guitars are soaring and somewhat eerie, letting the atmosphere of the record resonate and painting some imagery for the journey. And letting you know you’re in for a nice piece of classically inspired doom-y heavy metal.
My hypothesis was confirmed as the next track, Isolation, rolled in and immediately presenting itself in a shiny coat of armor and a NWOBHM vibe. The blazing dual guitar harmonies fly over the crushing drums and soaring vocals; really giving this a dark Iron Maiden sort of vibe… nothing to not enjoy about that, if you ask me. Done. End of discussion. Next up! Flesh to Nothing. This is maybe the only song on the record I don’t care for all that much. Maybe because it had to follow the previous two killers, or maybe not. There’s just nothing too special about it, it’s more or less more of the same and dare I say a little too much trying to be shoved into this over seven minute tune. Also, one of the things that I guess comes with a more progressive sound is less death metal growling like vocals (less, not none completely, thank heavens. Or, Hell, I guess would be more appropriate), which is good and bad. But, for this selection I think its a tad on the bad side. It feels a little over sung and exaggerated and could definitely benefit from a nice kick of heavy metal. But, what couldn’t, right?
Anyway, my lack of enthusiasm from Flesh to Nothing was immediately made up for tenfold with this grand axe swinger of a tune, The Seer, my personal favorite track on this thing. This track is the essential Khemmis tune, for this record, anyway. It has everything from the catchiest of catchy hook and vocal patterns mixed in with a little classic death growl vocals, heavy and groovy riffs, Sabbth-y bass, and its just epic. And progressive. Its becoming clear to me at this point that Khemmis means business with this record and are showcasing their musicianship and production qualities. I mean, this record sounds beautiful in terms of a heavy metal album. It has depth, dynamic range, crisp hard hitting drums and power chords… everything. The guitars couldn’t sound more perfect and the vocals are just as fitting. It’s just really nice. It also doesn’t take that much to impress my six-year old mentality. As mentioned before, this record did grow on me quite a bit, and this song really drove that home. As much as I love their previous effort, Hunted, I’m starting to think this one is better. Just because it wasn’t as easily digestible for me at first as Hunted was doesn’t necessarily mean that Hunted is better, this just deserves a good honest listen or 6 to get it, maybe. Either way, I’m not trying to be complicated, it’s great.
This theme continues as we reach the concluding couple tunes of Desolation. Maw of Time feels like the heaviest track on the record and certain places, and a little redundant in the not so heavy portions; but there is enough awesomeness packed into this track to make up for that. Black metal snarls are latent throughout as well as some dope-ass lyrics and imagery brought to life in this. Dig it very much. The epilogue, closing tune, From Ruin is their ballad-y epic. And it is just that, pretty damn epic. “Giving me the strength to carry on” they roar as the guitars gallop and blaze across mountains of fire and Khemmis thrusts their sword into the Earth. They’re here to stay. And well leave it at that.
Although not a perfect record, probably not in my top 5 of year, that’s ok.. it’s still great. And it showcases a great band progressing with lots of intriguing sounds and songwriting ability and subject matter and all that jazz. Its an interesting step in the right direction for a band like this. Lots of bands try to get heavier and crazier with each release… Khemmis is trying to get smarter. And they’re doing a damn good job. At the end of the day, a good ‘ol classic inspired heavy metal doom record is never a bad thing, is it? I’ll leave you with a feel goo Khemmis lyric of the day:
“The faith I held is fractured like a mirror, both sides reflect the darkness of the other. Without the will to look inside, we cut our wrists on the divide. And I’m retreating now, Into the silence of the starless skies.”
Rock Rating : 3.5/5
Gym Rating: 3/5
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