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Khemmis - Desolation

Label: 20 Buck Spin / Nuclear Blast
Format: Download
Released: 2018
Reviewed By: Jack Mangan
Rating: 8/10

Khemmis pack a lot into the 6 songs that comprise their third album: “Desolation.” None of the tunes are exceptionally long, but all save one are over 6 minutes, so there’s no need to worry that you’re getting short-changed. (And we’ll save the debate about the definition of an album in the 21st century for another column.)


Their sound, which is a bit of a cross between Black Album-Metallica and Mastodon, lands right on the faultline between Metal’s past and present, and will undoubtedly cause some rumbles. One of their great strengths is in the song’s compositional arrangements. The pieces are fit together in creative and intriguing ways, keeping things interesting instead of frustrating. This is especially true on the lead track, “Bloodletting,” which culminates in an exciting, climactic tempo change.
The vocals will get a mixture of praise and criticism from me, but not for the usual reasons. Vocalist Phil (Pendergast) has a fantastically rich, deep clean voice, which at times sounds like a grittier Don Dokken, like if Dokken had come of age in a 90s Grunge band. Ben (Hutcherson) is also credited as a vocalist, so I assume he’s providing the occasional harmonies, which. . . are competently executed, but are gratingly reminiscent of some 90s commercial Rock atrocities like Creed. One of these guys (apologies, I’m not sure which) also sometimes hits the microphone with forced growls. This unclean voice detracts 99 percent of the time. It sounds like the raw throated stuff was dropped into the mix to be trendy, not as a creative decision to improve the music. It is what’s expected of Metal bands of this ilk in 2018.
So if you TL;DR’ed and skimmed the above paragraph: I’d much prefer it if Khemmis would stick to the single-voice clean vocals.Those moments, along with some choice riffs, make for a good overall album experience. The best songs of the 6 are “Bloodletting” (even with that one grating vocal harmony in the chorus), the ballad-like “From Ruin,” and “Flesh To Nothing.”
Their previous record, “Hunted,” hit a lot of “Top 20 Metal Records of the Year” lists in 2016, so this one comes with some expectations. MetalAsylum.net didn’t review “Hunted,” but I recall hearing it and thinking it was pretty good. “Desolation” is also pretty good.

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