Deeper Underground is almost certainly not where Kekal should be going. After labouring away at their craft in Indonesia since 1995, releasing fourteen LPs and EPs along the way, the synth metallers deserve nothing but long overdue recognition for their efforts. Jeff Arwadi appears to manage most of the musical output despite having no official band members since 2009. Their material has never been better and Deeper Underground shows that, along with NIF’s excellent Above The Sky, 2018 might be the year we set up a Bucketlist office in Jakarta.
It’s hard to know where to begin when describing Kekal’s sound. There’s certainly a strong element of black metal to everything, particularly Dimmu Borgir and early Cradle of Filth. But that’s before the Skinny Puppy electronics of “Sanity Away From Sanity” and “Rotten In The House” kick in. It’s a great mix and Kekal pulls it off like old pros. It could be a hard sell for the purists of black metal and industrial, but even those scowling masses wouldn’t want to turn it off. Deeper Underground is a grim affair, one you could easily see paired with corpsepaint or black nail polish.
The raisin in the cookie is the programmed drums. They work decently well in the electronic sections, but quickly grow lifeless when its time to really thrash. Black metal has always prided itself on lo-fi production techniques, but even those have limits. Those include the auto-tuned, badly dated vocal effects that permeate tracks like “Speed Of God” and “The Many Faces of Your Face” (we’re writing up that title as lost in translation. It’s better that way.) Hell, “Triples Evils” sounds like it’s been ripped from the Prince of Persia soundtrack. It’s like flipping channels between a rerun of The Matrix and a 240pp video of Immortal from 2006. Both appropriately old-school but maybe from schools on different sides of the town.
The best track on Deeper Underground comes from an unexpected place; the cameo from Voxlucis on “Revealment” (another lost in translation title.) His emo-tinged voice brings an element of 90s angst to the song that all the autotuning in the world couldn’t recreate. Kekal, despite being around for more than two decades, still know how to reinvent themselves. If they can sort out the drummer issue and really pull together, there is absolutely no reason that they can’t become a major player in the international metal scene.
Written by Max Morin
*edited by Mike Milito