In case you’ve been living under a rock, weed is now legal in Colorado, making it a fitting environment for the creation of Denver-based stoner/doom act Khemmis’ debut album Absolution. Doom metal seems like a dime a dozen these days, making it increasingly difficult for budding doom bands to stand out. Fortunately, Khemmis doesn’t have this issue. Taking a page from the many tomes of doom metal, Khemmis seamlessly splice the solid backbeat and accessibility of NWOBHM bands such as Iron Maiden, the sorrowful melodies of breakout doom contemporaries Pallbearer and the fuzzed-out, almighty riffs of YOB, creating a potent strain of sludgy doom that’s wholly pure and is near-perfectly represented on Absolution.
It’s nigh impossible not to be captivated by the opening riffs and leads of “Torn Asunder.” It’s almost got a rock n’ roll charm to it that makes it very easy to listen to, but don’t be fooled: Khemmis carve canyons with their colossal riffs and earth-shaking sonic presence. The balance between clean and harsh vocals that vocalists/guitarists Ben Hutcherson and Phil Pendergast achieve is nothing short of masterful; they’re so good at what they do, it’s hard to believe this is only their first record. The vocals are really where the comparison to Pallbearer comes in; they’re heartfelt, they’re heavy, but most of all, they’re unforgettable. The powerful vocals combined with the heart-tugging leads and guitar harmonies make for a rather emotional listen at times, but fear not; Khemmis still know how to bring the heavy.
With Absolution, Khemmis has damn-near streamlined doom as much as it can be with each of the six under-10 minute songs on Absolution, making the album perhaps a bit more digestible than a typical doom record. Cuts such as “Ash, Cinder, Smoke” and “Serpentine” personify this quality and prove that doom metal doesn’t necessarily have to be long and drawn out in order to make its point. Of course, as with any other doom record, the focal point on Absolution is the riff, and Khemmis don’t slouch in that category, either. The mammoth riffs of “Antediluvian” are ample proof of this, as are the “Children of the Grave”-inspired chugs of “Burden of Sin.”
Each song on Absolution stands out on its own, but the album really comes to a head with the incredible closing track “The Bereaved.” A soft guitar passage opens the song before kicking full gear into the absolutely devastating main riff, while a howling lead rings over for all to hear. It’s a perfect example of how adept of songwriters the guys in Khemmis are and will likely stand as one of the best doom songs of the year. It’s perhaps the most dynamic song on the album, and really showcases the best of what Khemmis have to offer in what is sure to be a long and storied career. Much like “Marrow” from YOB’s masterpiece from last year, Clearing the Path to Ascend, “The Bereaved” ends Absolution on an emotional high note and serves as the ideal way to close the album.
2015 is proving to be the year of doom, with already stellar releases from Elder, Monolord and Goatsnake, and it’s safe to add Khemmis’ Absolution to that list. Much like the cannabis-infused haze that now hovers above the snow-tipped caps of Rocky Mountains, Absolution lingers long after the final notes of “The Bereaved” ring out and wafts ever so smoothly into your consciousness, creating a perpetual high that you won’t soon come down from.
Khemmis- Absolution gets…