‘Leuk’ is a Dutch word that has no proper equivalent in English. The most direct translation would be ‘fun,’ but without any adjectives, ‘fun’ still sound enjoyable and worth the effort, while ‘leuk’ (pronounced approximately like ‘löwk’) has the flavorless, bland feel of ‘okay,’ as in “This mermaid fin soup is okay.” Of course, a lot depends on inflection, but it should speak volumes that it’s among the most-used words for sarcasm. Generally, if it’s sort of vaguely enjoyable and doesn’t really have any significant negatives, but it has all the personality and excitement of unsweetened custard, ‘leuk’ is your friend. And if by now you have not picked up on which direction this review of Spectral Ascent by girl power trio Kabbalah is headed, you require a course in interpretative reading (not to be confused with interpretative dancing.)

The formula for Spectral Ascent is quite simple. The music is rooted in classic, 70s style hard rock with a Coveninspired occult atmosphere, draped over the bones of Black Sabbath and Blue Öyster Cult. If that makes you think: “Well golly gee, this here description sure do sound like Ghost,” I would tell you two things: learn some grammar, and you’re almost right. Although the overall sound is close, and the vocals specifically have just enough of a sardonic edge to be sisters of Papa Emeritus, it’s kept much smaller, foregoing the grand ritualistic strokes in favor of stoner- and psychedelic-inspired buzzing and rocking out. Small touches of other contemporaries can be traced as well, such as the bouncing Clutch riff on “The Darkness of Time,” the Palm Beach vibes on “Phantasmal Planetoid” and the Gygax-like rocker “Dark Revival.” The subtle occultism in particular works rather well and ensures the album isn’t just another 70s revival band. Jorn knows we have plenty of those already1.

But while Spectral Ascent does a lot of things right, it does few of them spectacularly. The vocals specifically are rather lackluster. The variation in pitch and volume seems dampened throughout the album, and the shortage of dynamics creates an uninspired sensation that inhibits the spirit of the album. The songwriting is solid enough and it’s structurally sound, packing catchy lead lines in a straightforward skeleton, but I miss a sense of passion. The riffs don’t feel urgent but they’re not laid-back, they have some distortion but no real grit, they’re never near dreamy but don’t carry much punch. The drums are pretty basic and not too exciting, although they pack a good punch. The bass has a stronger presence, carrying plenty of heft and defining the sound.

Spectral Ascent is a difficult album to write about. More praise feels like it’s overrating the music, because that lack of spirit and inability to stir my loins with fiery enthusiasm don’t feel like it should receive too much praise. On the other hand, every demerit I note down feels unfair, because the music is solidly constructed and executed, and the talent is indubitable. The production reflects this somewhat, but tips more towards the positive. The aforementioned bass is a definite plus. It’s big, chunky and alluring in the best way, and the overall clarity among the instruments is equally sound. I would still have preferred a bit more bite to the sound, which lingers on the tame side, but the production carries less of this demerit than the instrumental execution.

The only conclusion I can make is that Kabbalah is a band you need to try for yourself. The solid structure, professional execution and occult flair may surpass the uninspired vocals for you and win you over. The lack of passion in the execution may turn you off entirely. Or, like me, you may find yourself somewhere in-between, and for this reason Spectral Ascent is the hardest ‘mixed’ I’ve given so far. It is not bad by any means. But it doesn’t stretch beyond ‘leuk.’

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Twin Earth Records
Websiteskabbalahrock.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/Kabbalahrock
Releases Worldwide: July 7th, 2017

Show 1 footnote

  1. Watch your ass, kid. – Steel
  • Alex Calcan

    Aren’t you guys going to review Axis Mundi by Decrepit Birth?

  • HeavyMetalHamster

    Gotta love the dutch language for many of those un-translatable words
    Although pretty sure “meh” is universal.

    • sir_c

      Maar het was wel gezellig

  • Drew Music

    If nothing else, now the term ‘lukewarm’ finally makes sense to me.

  • Not bad at all. I quite like the vocals. The production is nice and chunky and the song itself is pretty solid. I got through to the end, which says a lot.

    • Frost15

      Same. It reminded me of Christian Mistress, which is a good thing…

  • Brutalist_Receptacle


    • Nate Sweet

      Between Kabbalah, the inverted cross, the Mayan pyramids, and the Christian graves in the band photo it’s very difficult to follow the lore here.

  • I don’t know that I agree with this review. I like the embedded track quite a lot and agree with the comment below, the vocals are pretty good. Also, I’m a sucker for a mix with a strong bass presence and generally think it is stupid when bands bury the bass because you’re just giving your music one less dimension of depth.

    • Feytalist

      Same here. And this type of music especially needs a solid baseline, I think.

      For myself, I’m a sucker for this kind of music and I liked the track, so that’s a win/win for me.

      • sir_c

        The bass line forms the baseline indeed

        • Feytalist

          Aargh. Fuck you, words. I can’t even blame autocorrect this time :C

          Thanks for the catch tho. Leaving it because of the funny.

          • sir_c

            I chuckled too, it was too good to leave it just there :-)

  • Didn’t expect a disquisition on my language at AMG on a monday morning.


  • Malhorne

    This vocals … meh
    The music … leuk

    Am I doing it right?

    • Jack Outjers


  • dblbass

    ….starting to think that you guys don’t really care for ANYTHING.