12 Jacket (3mm Spine) [GDOB-30H3-007}2015 may not end up a magical year for metal, but it has certainly dropped some earth-shaking doom on the unsuspecting masses. In the wake of mammoth shit kickers from Crypt Sermon and Goatsnake, we must now reckon with the ponderous girth of unheralded Colorado doomers, Khemmis and their righteous debut, Absolution. As with Cyrpt Sermon, these slow motion maulers arrived at my door without hype or buzz and proceeded to lay waste to my time, attention and reviewing schedule. And they did it with a formula that’s far from arcane or revolutionary – taking traditional doom and blending it with stoner metal like Mastodon and High on Fire, a little southern groove and some old school rock ideas. Hardly groundbreaking ingredients, but the muck they dredge up at the delta of these influences is so listenable and addictive, you may think they stumbled upon a whole new doom enchilada. And that’s the alchemy the band practices; taking what is old and making it feel somehow fresh and invigorated. Add to that, a cover that could have been used for Ralph Bakshi’s super cult adult cartoon, Wizards, and there’s definitely some wild mojo percolating.

Absolution is a mere six songs, but man, they’re impressive and beastly numbers. Opener “Torn Asunder” clues you in right away that something good is afoot with riffs you can immediately get behind, haunting, Omnium Gatherum-like harmonies and the clear, forlorn vocals of guitarist/vocalist Phil. It’s very accessible for ponderous doom and has more than a little Pallbearer influence, but dare I say, this is much more memorable and instantaneous. Better still is the epic “Ash, Cinder, Smoke” where the band adds a bit more of a goth aesthetic along with a ripping swagger and an irresistibly bouncy, jaunty riff at the 2:10 point. Phil’s vocals are particularly gripping here and the whole song works a hypnotic charm on the listener while never forgetting to rock and/or roll.

Serpentine” clocks in at over eight minutes but never overstays its welcome, captivating the listener with excellently slithering riffs and ultimately uncorking a mother of a hooky lead that could have appeared on Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. It takes the song to a whole other level and you’ll be left impressed with the depth, groove and authenticity of it all. But these are just setting the table for the ginormous monster that is “The Bereaved.” The nine-minute closer is the band’s magnum opus and worth the price of admission all by its lonesome. It’s loaded down with beautifully emotional, plaintive vocals, heavy riffs, tripped out Kyuss-like experimentation and good old-fashioned rock n’ roll bombast. It rumbles along at a brisk pace rather than dragging like a crippled frost giant, and that makes everything far more engaging and lively. The ultimate testament to the song’s quality is that despite the length, it goes by in the blink of an eye and leaves you wanting more. Not many doom bands can pull that off, folks.

Khemmis_2015

There isn’t a bad song or weak moment anywhere to be found and things gets radically better with repeat listens. The sound is rich and engrossing, the guitars are beautiful and crushing in equal measure, and the concise 41 minute runtime avoids doom fatigue. Sure, a bit more dynamic range would have been sweet, but when a band gives so much quality, I’m not going to bitch about a perfect DR score (I’ll leave that to our friends, the Metal-Fi weenies).

Phil and co-axe Ben are the main reason why Absolution is such a mammoth slab o’ win and together they run a high-level clinic on crafting riffs that keep a song engaging and memorable. There are many little moments that jump out and make you want to hear them again, and they shake things up regularly by dragging in ideas from rock, stoner, goth and traditional metal. The end result is a doom album that refuses to play like one because it’s too damn energetic and dynamic. Add in Phil’s rich, emotional vocals and Ben’s gruff, quasi-death barks as a counterpoint and everything takes a big step forward (especially at 3:30 on “Antediluvian”). Also of note is Dan’s heavy bass presence, which thumps and bumps with Geezer Butler-esque authority.

This is one polished humdinger of a debut and it’s travelling like a bullet up my Records o’ the Year list. I can’t stop spinning it, and if this is what legalized marijuana delivers, then I hope Colorado (and by extension, Khemmis) never emerge from their Rocky Mountain haze. Stone them. Stone them all wicked hard!


Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: 20 Buck Spin
Websites: khemmis.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/khemmisdoom
Release Dates: Out Worldwide 07.07.2015

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  • I just got the album and checked it out, ermm… It was good but nahh.. didn’t like it!

  • Dr. Scorpion

    2015 – the year shit got doomed :P

  • The embedded track is nice despite the fact that I don’t particularly like feeling too much America in my doom metal, but
    (I see the sword and everything but)
    WHAT is that cover WHY did they think it’s a good idea

    • Excentric_1307

      BECAUSE IT’S DOOM

    • El_Cuervo

      Hater. I think the cover is great

    • I love the cover!

      • Belgian Tom’s Hat Trick

        To make an understatement, I am way late joining this discussion as I just signed up to be part of this community. Yes, indeed, this cover is killer. I just received this in the mail last Friday; the same day Opeth’s new album dropped. Opeth is one of my favorites, and much to the shagrin of the metal community as a whole, I happened to love their new direction. That being said, I can’t stop listening to Absolution long enough to dig into Sorceress! This album is that good! I’ve already preordered their sophomore album from 20 Buck Spin and the album art kicks ass once more. The old guy makes a return! I’m a sucker for album/shirt bundles and had to get the bundle. The shirt just has the old bearded badass on it. Can’t wait to find this in my mailbox.

    • Chris McAlevy

      The cover is sweet.

      And dude(tte?), it’s doom.

  • Heavy Worship

    Definitely going to check them out. After getting the above mentioned Crypt Sermon and Goatsnake reading the AMG reviews (amongst other bands I wouldn’t have heard about without this site, like Sigh, Manilla Road, just to name a few, and which I am a proud owner of all of their albums). A very satisfied customer indeed. Keep it up!

    • kaeru92

      While I thought Crypt Sermon was ok, and I’m still trying to figure out the new Goatsnake (not going well thus far), the preview makes me think I’ll like this one better. Can’t wait to put my hands on it !

      • The new Goatsnake at first the vocals irked me, then I went “WHOA” and now- top 3 lock for the year…maybe contender for #1

        • Ah yeah, I really can’t stand the vocals..

  • Luke_22

    This sounds pretty fucking killer to my ears from the couple of songs I just checked out. One thing I will add is on early impressions the gruffer vocals seem a touch out of place but the cleans are fantastic. Probably just need time to adjust though. Nice review as well.

  • El_Cuervo

    The Bereaved rocked me since I first heard it. Great release, though I’m not sure it beats Oceanwake for my favourite doom of the year so far. We shall see how I feel by the year end.

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      I thought Oceanwake was brilliant when I first heard it after your review, but I’m not really going back to it. Crypt Sermon Im still digging … One thing’s for sure a it’s been a good year for Doom!

    • Monsterth Goatom

      After your mention of Oceanwake, I went and listened to it again after streaming Khemmis. I think the former is the stronger of the two, but maybe that’s because I’ve spun it so many times since its release. Regardless, these guys are talented.

  • Monsterth Goatom

    I was hooked after the first three minutes of Torn Asunder. Exquisite melodic guitar work, and lyrics you can understand.

    Nice cover. Reminds me of Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings. Sphere, Monolith, skeletons, sword, wizard, virginal damsel in distress… no, scratch that last one. Echt Metal.

  • Andy777

    I’ve been looking forward to this dropping since I first heard the promo a few weeks ago. I might have to wait for the vinyl in August if for no other reason that a big 12×12 slab of that cover art.

  • Chigo

    This sounds pretty good; great review too. I agree with Luke 22 that the harsh vocals can sound a bit out of place at times, but I’m hoping they’ll grow on me. I applaud them for trying them; this kind of melodic doom can benefit from a little extra aggression at times to bring some variety. And thanks to El Ceurvo for the Oceanwake recommendation – I had not heard their new one until I saw you mention it here, and immediately went to check it out. Pretty killer stuff. Good recommendations from both the main review and the comments section; gotta love this site!

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Great review …
    I’m now literally rushing to Bandcamp!

  • TminusEight

    Love it!

  • PEACE_SELLS

    20 Buck Spin is really leading the way these days. This label has that knack for signing some AMAEEYYzing bands!

  • Hey, I resemble that remark. How dare you? LOL. Actually Steel, DR7 isn’t half bad. It could have been a lot worse.

  • Nothing like doom metal to warm the cockles of your heart… or the sub-cockle area….

    Good stuff. Amazon expects it July 10th in the US.

  • Doomdeathrosh

    Quite some Pallbearer here, but a bit faster. This is brilliant! And the band pic suggests their happy with it to! Good Going! Great Review as always!

  • Shawn Cypher

    You had me at Kyuss-like.

    But, also, the cover art looks very similar to Pallbearer’s — this isn’t the same artist is it? If not, the style is a lot alike.

  • Tom Hardy

    Album cover – 4/5
    Music – 1/5 (could be higher depending on how many songs you skip to get to the end of the album, thereby adding to your overall enjoyment)

    No, we ain’t adding those up for a final 5/5 okay.

  • HeavyMetalSusan

    “clear, forlorn vocals”

    YES. The cleans are what made this album for me; the remaining elements fell so perfectly into place around them. Possibly doom album of the year for me.