Khemmis
Absolution

There’s been a significant amount of buzz circulating around Colorado doom merchants Khemmis and their debut album Absolution. The doom resurgence has been in full swing in recent years, with the genre’s status increasingly elevated by the likes of contemporary behemoths Pallbearer, Ufomammut and Yob, along with stellar 2015 releases from the traditional revivalist doom of Crypt Sermon and the re-emergence of old school champions Goatsnake. Perhaps it’s the widening diversity of some of these differing doom acts that is changing the perception of what doom metal can sound like and it’s many changing faces. So is the widespread acclaim being bestowed upon Khemmis justifiable or are they just another overhyped entity snatching undeserved exposure over the scores of talented bands flooding the current doom scene?

Well right off the bat Khemmis establish a sound that is both fresh and familiar, containing the sonic girth and addictive, epic song-writing traits to reel in and perhaps divide doom fans from both sides of the fence: from traditionally inclined to the modernist fans of the genre. So while there’s potential to divide listeners, Khemmis’ ability to deftly combine old school flavors with modern sensibilities is one of the album’s key strengths. Comparisons to Pallbearer are apt and inevitable, while also only scratching the surface of the Khemmis sound. While Pallbearer sways on the gloomier side of trad doom, Khemmis employ a slightly livelier approach to complement their doom roots, more akin to the sludgy, groovier aspects of stoner metal. Meanwhile an old school spirit burns through the band’s obvious appreciation for classic heavy metal, reinforced through the many dual guitar leads and harmonies that haunt the album and offset the ample supply of fat doomier riffs. Considering their relatively short existence, Khemmis’ song-writing skills are remarkably well-developed, hinting at the potential greatness that lies ahead.

The six highly memorable songs comprising Absolution pack a huge wallop and are expertly paced and composed, never becoming overly drawn-out or plodding despite ranging in length from five-and-a-half to nine minutes. Although several songs stand out more than others, each composition provides something catchy, accessible and noteworthy without eschewing the attributes that draw listeners into the realms of doom in the first place. Khemmis’ exceptional riffcraft, solid grasp of song-writing dynamics and deft use of melody shines through the gloom. Opener “Torn Asunder” gets the ball rolling in style through mournful, evocative guitar harmonies, punishing doom riffs and those oh so hooky clean vocals. From here onwards the quality rarely dips. “Ash, Cinder, Smoke” features some heart-wrenching guitar melodies in the Pallbearer vein, spiked with head-bobbing grooves and impressive sonic heft. Other highlights include the sublime crush and groove of “Serpentine” and sombre closer “The Bereaved”, both of which are full of emotive and haunting vocal hooks, snaking guitar melodies and bruising heavy riffage.

If I have one significant bone to pick, it’s with the dual vocal approach Khemmis apply. On one hand, Phil Pendergast (who also forms half of their formidable guitar combo), possesses a powerful set of pipes which alternately soar and soothe in all their belting, melodic glory. He sings with passion and emotion and knows how to weave his vocal lines perfectly through the boulder crushing weight of the surrounding doomstorm, giving the music and ample jammy sections plenty of room to breathe and groove. On the flipside Khemmis incorporate some very questionable harsh vocals which I can only assume were used to add an unnecessary dynamic and aggression to proceedings. The barking hardcore-ish growls may work in a different context but they do seem oddly out of place here. And while no means a deal breaker on an otherwise excellent debut, they do prove detrimental to the overall flow and cohesion of the album. To be fair, when incorporated more sparingly and strategically the results aren’t all that bad (see “Serpentine”) but they slightly weaken the finished product.

Otherwise, from the confident and accomplished writing, to the crisp weighty production and killer old school fantasy artwork, Khemmis has crafted a triumphant and memorable slab of fuzzy melodic doom, with one foot planted firmly in the present and the other respectfully lodged in the fertile soil of doom’s storied past. One major blemish aside, Absolution is a fine beginning to a promising career and is well worth investigating for doom fans old and new.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Luke Saunders
October 5th, 2015

Comments

  1. Commented by: glimmerfunnel

    T-minus 3, 2, 1… We. Have. Rifftoff.


  2. Commented by: Dan

    This album is really frustrating. The music is great and I want to like it so much but like you said, the duel vocals are….pretty bad. You seem to be able to get around it but they’re so overbearing it kinda kills it for me.


  3. Commented by: Dan

    Also that cover gets dumber the longer you look at it.


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