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Khemmis : Absolution

The full-length debut from Khemmis is an essential release for Trad and Sludge fans alike.

As 2016 begins to enter its third month, I have found myself embarrassingly behind on recent releases. I have found it is high time I give a review to one of my favorite albums of this past year; 'Absolution' by Khemmis.

Being a native of the United States, I have found that our Doom bands seem to specialize in a specific niche in the subgenre; much like how bands from the United Kingdom have been known to pursue romantic sounding Death/Doom Metal or how bands from Russia seem to churn out another album of keyboard-driven Funeral Doom every other week. Well, the niche of my land seems to consist of very heavy, yet refined sounding Stoner/Sludge/Traditional Doom that puts most of its focus on a crystal clear sound quality, thick bass-heavy riffs, and typically a pretty liberal heap of influences from Sabbath or Sleep.

This niche seems to have become considerably more pronounced following the break-through of modern Traditional Doom lords Pallbearer. As their bleak and atmospheric take on the style has seemed to have spawned off a re-awakening of "True Doom" morals (which has only been further solidified by the likes of Psych Doom bands like Windhand), Khemmis have taken an approach that bears similarities to the band's style, with some interesting quirks and twists of their own.

Khemmis lie somewhere in between majestic sounding Epic/Traditional Doom, and crunchy, aggressive Sludge Metal. Their style works itself between these two niches exceptionally well, creating a very interesting, well-nuanced sound. I think the first aspect that appeals to me in the band's music is that factor alone; there is simply a lot going on in each of their compositions. Every track has a pleasant bit of variety in tempo, mood, and atmosphere. On each of the tracks, the riffs alternate between melancholic, melodic slow bits and lumbering, epic climaxes that reach mid (and sometimes high) tempos. The leads have a liberal dose of solos, which blend and complement the chugging rhythm guitar and thick bass lines. Finally, there is a very nice interplay between the bright clean vocals, and some very ugly sounding growls and screams.

The vocals are, perhaps, what will be the first element to bring up similarities to the aforementioned Pallbearer. The clean singing takes up a good 75% of the vocal duties, and his voice is a very pleasant, soothing tenor voice which avoids the melodrama of typical Epic/Traditional Doom, but holds a lot of power and emotion. Though his tone bears a significant resemblance to the wailing cleans of Brett Campbell, his voice is considerably clearer, lacking any effects or reverb, which puts him in the forefront of the music, allowing his singing to blend rather well with the guitar melodies. The harsh vocalist appears here and there on occasion to add intensity to the more aggressive section, making for an effective balance with the clean singing. The interplay between the two vocalists is more or less the kind of thing one would find more common in the realms of Gothic Doom or Death/Doom, so I found that to be an interesting facet to the music here.

The guitar harmonies on this album are simply phenomenal. The guitars have a clean quality to them, as both the wailing leads and chugging rhythm section lack the buzz, feedback, or noisiness that would be typical for the Stoner/Sludge tier of Doom Metal. The rhythm guitars never trudge or become repetitive; they are almost always harmonizing alongside the winding leads or creating their own unique melodies. They are considerably busier sounding than the riffs one could expect from a Doom band, tying in a somewhat Progressive shade to their music.

The drum lines are also pretty busy. As I mentioned before, the music alternates between slower sections, and driving mid-tempo/up-tempo peaks, in which the drum fills have plenty of changes in pacing and time signatures. Even during the music's slowest periods, the drums are never sparse or too repetitive. Altogether, each of the instruments keeps a very good, steady momentum, with plenty of surprising turns that will keep the listener interested.

As the album managed to receive a considerable amount of recognition around the time of its release, it seems as though Khemmis are beginning to become more known in the scene of modern Doom Metal. With how well-done this first album was, I have to say they definitely deserve to be heard by more people. Fans of Traditional Doom and Sludge Doom alike will find it to be an essential release, while those who are simply looking for an epic, complex, well-performed Doom album in general will surely enjoy it.

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Reviewer's rating: 10/10


Tracklist :
1. Torn Asunder
2. Ash, Cinder, Smoke
3. Serpentine
4. Antediluvian
5. Burden of Sin
6. The Bereaved

Duration : Approx. 41 minutes

Visit the Khemmis bandpage.

Reviewed on 2016-02-24 by Dante DuVall
Aesthetic Death
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