Anomalia is their debut album from Norway’s Khonsu. The name may not ring a bell for most people (including me), but the lineup just might. You see, Khonsu is the brainchild of guitarist S. Gronbech, who just happens to be the brother of Keep of Kalessin guitarist/mainman Obsidian C. Gronbech also contributed guitar to KoK‘s Reclaim EP back in 2003, and Obsidian returns the favor here by producing Anomalia and giving it his personal endorsement. Obsidian is one of the most raging rhythm guitarists in metal since Dave Mustaine quit heroin and turned into a giant pussy, but can his brother bring the fury as well?
The answer is: sort of.
If the band’s promo materials are to be believed, Khonsu is intended to be some kind of industrial/prog/black metal hybrid. In actuality, the album has very little to do with industrial music, other than some loops and samples on “The Malady.” For the most part, Anomalia is built around mid-tempo black-ish metal, with some seriously heavy-handed keyboards (which are also played by Gronbech– he handles all instruments here except vocals).
Opening track “In Otherness” busts out of the gate with considerable fury, but quickly loses steam, and the next two tracks are also somewhere between mid-tempo and slow. This wouldn’t be a big deal, except that all of these songs are reeeeeally long, with the shortest coming in at around 6 minutes. On the 4th track “Inhuman States,” the band finally picks up the goddamn pace with some bonafide black metal trem-picking and blast beats, but they can only keep it up for a couple minutes before descending back into slow tempos and cheesy, overblown synths. For a band that’s led by a guitarist, Gronbech seems to have spent a lot of time behind the keyboards.
As promised, though, Gronbech is no slouch at guitar, and like his brother, he has a knack for memorable outside-the-box guitar parts. This album is packed with super-choppy riffs, dissonant squeals, and even the occasional burst of Spanish acoustic guitar. That said, the intro to album closer “Va Shia” sounds suspiciously like America‘s “Horse with No Name,” which is never a good thing.
Taking the Kalessin connection even further, the vocals on Anomalia were handled by KoK frontman Thebon. He spends most of this album sounding eerily like Killing Joke‘s Jaz Coleman, which is awesome. However, a few of his attempts to “branch out” do not fare as well. The Cynic-esque autotuned vocals on “The Host” are pretty out of place, and creepy spoken/whispered vocals are always cheesy. Always.
Between the restrained production and the overabundance of keyboards, Anomalia is “heavy” without actually feeling heavy, and “progressive” without being all that complex musically. There haven’t been a whole lot of albums in metal history that have managed this dubious feat. Voivod‘s Angel Rat comes to mind; so does the infamous original version of Nevermore‘s Enemies of Reality. Granted, the record sounds good, and you can certainly hear everything that’s going on. But the oddly sterile vibe detracts somewhat from the interesting compositions and guitar work within this album.
On the plus side, there’s a shitload of talent involved here, and this is only the band’s first outing. It’s too soon to say if Khonsu is a full-time gig, considering Gronbech’s long absence from the music scene and Thebon’s commitment to his day job in Keep of Kalessin. But all the ingredients are there, and with a couple refinements to the recipe, S. Gronbech is clearly capable of making an awesome follow-up to Anomalia.