Khemmis
Hunted

Khemmis made a hell of an impression when they dropped their impressive debut LP Absolution in 2015. The album was worthy of hype and praise, boasting a formidable modern doom sound comparable to the mighty Pallbearer and embellished by some sweet stoner and trad metal elements. It certainly put the Colorado lads on the map, rapidly catapulting their profile as one of the rising stars of the current doom scene. Rather than taking their time and adhering to the more traditional two year album release cycle, Khemmis, riding high from the momentum of a successful debut, chose to keep the creative juices flowing by crafting a quick-fire follow-up with their second serve of doomy delights, courtesy of the anticipated Hunted.

Any doubts of the dreaded sophomore slump are erased almost immediately as the band come out swinging with the pounding riff force and rocking slab of morose doom on classy opener “Above the Water.” Right away Khemmis showcase a slightly different tact, boasting a stronger classic doom influence and darker, more emotive edge. The riffs still pack one hell of a punch and the trad metal meets classic yet modernized doom brand Khemmis established first time around is solidified as stunning guitar harmonies soar majestically through thick waves of chunky doom, while the already impressive clean vocals of Phil Pendergast are taken to a new level of emotional depth and power. Everything has been kicked up a couple of notches and though the excellent guitar work and vocals are clear standouts, the accessibility and memorable, consistent quality of the songwriting illustrates just how far Khemmis have come in a relatively short period.

Despite the darker, doomier feel to the material, Khemmis haven’t jettisoned their rockier tendencies, ensuring the songs never become too plodding or cumbersome. The tight and inventive rhythm section lock down some killer grooves, while the songwriting is both unified, diverse and heavy on dynamics. Hunted’s five hefty compositions carry their lengths effortlessly, a strong testament to the album’s tight construction and excellent writing. Each song stands out as memorable and distinctive, not to mention very palatable to the ears. My major beef with Absolution related to the band’s dubious use of harsh vocals, with the hardcore-ish barks often ill-fitting and obtrusive. Thankfully this issue has been rectified, with the harsher vocals used far more sparingly and tastefully. They don’t make an appearance until about halfway through the second track and sound far more guttural and impactful. When they first arrive on the stellar “Candlelight” they blend seamlessly, bringing an intense, funereal edge to proceedings.

Elsewhere, guest vocalist Grant Netzorg (In the Company of Serpents) lends his burly growls and screams to the verses of explosive sludge rocker “Three Gates.” Although not a genuine highlight it’s well positioned at the album’s midpoint and is a ripping chugfest in its own right, boasting a superlative clean chorus and tons of rocking riffs and attitude. However Khemmis arguably leave the best for last, closing with the mammoth, 13-minute title track. So many great ideas, riffs and melodies are wedged cohesively into a gripping song of epic proportions, switching from driving rock-infused doom grooves, to a stunning extended jam and softer, contemplative passages of melancholic beauty. All the while Pendergast’s smooth, authoritative vocals raise the stakes once more. The production generally fits the chunky, modern yet classic doom edge of the Khemmis sound well, though could certainly stand to be more dynamic and let the songs breathe a little more. Besides this relatively minor issue, there’s little to gripe about here, as Khemmis have lifted their game dramatically and exceeded lofty expectations.

Returning with an almighty bang, Khemmis have rapidly refined and developed their already impressive sound monumentally in the short timeframe between LP’s, landing a serious fucking blow with Hunted.  This is A-grade doom not to be missed and certainly one of 2016’s elite metal releases.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Luke Saunders
November 2nd, 2016

Comments

  1. Commented by: Jay

    Checked these guys out based on your review Luke. Superbly written and truly got me primed for some great music.


  2. Commented by: Luke_22

    Thanks Jay. The first album is worth checking out but Hunted leaves it for dead.


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