They might be from the Mile High City, (Denver, Colordao), but their music was definitely crafted a few miles below. Rolling on doomed heavy metal thunder, Khemmis have returned with their third album, Desolation, with a June, 2018 release under 20 Buck Spin and Nuclear Blast. Desolation throws down the doom while also incorporating classic influences like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Metallica. It’s a taste of modern metal smothered in doom vibes that sets the foundation for powerful melodies and technical musicianship.
As the metal wave hits you with the opening track “Bloodletting,” you get an instant fill of melodic harmonies wailing from the guitars. Enter the vocals, and you get that clergy-like doom essence that you could also pick out from bands like Ghost. Personally, this style of vocals does me good (as opposed to the sometimes over-the-top-high-pitch-wailing that you could come across in classic heavy metal. RIP, Dio. You also get a chunky scoop of the band’s capabilities with this first song, as it goes through some steep breakdowns, harsh vocals, and some turbulent solos. Some moments like these connect well. Others, like the intro to “Isolation,” sound like they came off the latest Avenged Sevenfold album, which at this point is rehashed Metallica. There’s a fine line between rehashing classic influences and tastefully reinventing them, and sometimes listening to this album felt like the former.
Not to worry, though. “Flesh to Nothing” is the chugga-chugga train to the promised land. With a hefty step, the groove steam rolls over you with an unforgiving coldness. My favourite part of this song comes at the very end; the sweetest of releases in the form of a beautifully arranged acoustic section. It’s definitely worth the wild ride that precedes it. The few seconds that it lasts is my favourite moment of the album.
Songs like “Maw of Time” helped swing the vibe the back the other way. By far the heaviest doom on the album, this track is the tasteful median. The sludgy, distorted riffs that lurk behind the staple flying-guitar harmonies perfectly capture the ‘doomed heavy metal’ genre. The song also sinks deep into the underworld, with growling vocals that sound like hell opening up. Much more innovative arrangements allow the aspects of classical influences (vocal and guitar melodies) to soar, while being delivered in a new, gruesome mix. “Maw of Time” is definitely my takeaway song from the album.
A few songs roll over six-minutes long throughout the album, but “From Ruin” wraps things up as a colossal nine-minute power ballad. It’s always great to see a band that’s able to swing through moods throughout a record. As you catch your breath after “Maw of Time,” you have a few moments to float in the tranquil melodies that you’ll find in the following track. Do not let your guard down, though; this closing track leaves you bruised with shredding solos and soaring melodies. It’s as power metal as things get, loaded with feel and grandiosity.
Modern metal is still rolling heavy, that’s for sure. It’s important to keep sifting through modern releases in the hopes of finding hidden gems and new sounds. Khemmis definitely delivered some fine musicianship with this album. If you want to catch them live, they’ll be making an appearance at July, 2018’s Heavy Montreal at Parc Jean Drapeau in Montreal. Tune in to this album to get the chance to experience the Khemmis studio magic before the live show in July.
Written by Ben Cornel
*edited by Kate Erickson