KHôRADA has a strange property for a group made up of two of the most beloved metal bands of yesteryear: any thought related to them that strikes me is pretty much entirely independent of their pedigree, which is fairly impressive when you consider the members of KHôRADA. Formed in the aftermath of Giant Squid and Agalloch by Aaron John Gregory of the former and Aesop Dekker, Don Anderson, and Jason Walton of the latter, KHôRADA has a sound that is impressively separate from either past project, even as it clearly draws on the collective experiences of the band members from the past decade-plus they all spent in bands that pioneered fairly original sounds in metal.
I’d dare to even go so far as to say that this new progressive sludge/black/avant-garde metal outfit is equally in its sonic originality to both of the bands in their lineage. It draws comparisons to Giant Squid far more than Agalloch (although this is honestly more just the vocal presence of Gregory than anything in the instrumentals) but there really isn’t another project out there that sounds quite like KHôRADA. If there’s a single word that can be used to describe the sound they employ on Salt, it’s “churning.” This album is thick, rough, swarming with texture that has an aggressive bite to it; it consistently threatens to pull the listener under. Maybe it’s just the Giant Squid fan in me that wants to employ all sorts of aqueous language to describe Salt, but there is something truly not unlike the ocean at play in this record. It has a certain ebb and flow to it that dictates the transitions between light and heavy, between sonorous atmospherics and apocalyptic climaxes. Salt is a record dominated by a single melancholic mood, but it’s certainly not a record that suffers from that same monotone nature in sound.
Even though this record is built mostly on slow-building, somber textures, it also deploys some of the most beautiful and outright sublime moments that metal has brought to the table as a genre for quite some time. It’s when the two are embraced in tandem that Salt is at its best: the climax of “Seasons of Salt,” for instance, is invigorating and resplendent before the track judders and crashes back into its underlying depression, ensuring a perfect transition into the grim lurch of “Water Rights.” The crashing, wavering finale of “Glacial Gold” dies down into the brief interlude “Augustus;” the build from this back into “Wave State” is filled with a palpable, irascible tension. To be sure, Salt is absolutely somber and melancholic, but there’s a genius in the diversity with which they express this.
Coming from a group of individuals who have expressed their talent time and again, it certainly isn’t surprising that their first outing is such a high-quality release, but it still needs to be stated how good of an album this is. Assuming that KHôRADA are here to stay and not just a one-off project from these guys, there’s plenty of reason to be excited already about this band’s future. Salt is a beautiful journey through a churning, melancholic sea that hits all the right marks for excellence.
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KHôRADA releases Salt through Prophecy Records on July 20th. You can preorder the album through Bandcamp and find merch here if you live in North America and here if you live in other parts of the world.