In researching for this review that you’re currently perusing in your hot little… um, eyeballs, I learned that the word “kenoma” was created by Valentinius, a Gnostic thinker from the 2nd century who married Platonic ideas with early Christianity. As the antithesis to fullness (or “pleroma”), kenoma is the void, the emptiness, and the shadow of the material world. Such headiness translates over to Dayton, Ohio’s Kenoma. Having formed in 2004 with only a split with fellow Ohioans Mouth of the Architect under their collective belt, this five-piece instrumental outfit gathered their resources and dropped their debut, The Tides Will Prevail, upon my lap. Taking a chance with 5 songs at 52 minutes in length, and without a vocalist to focus on, The Tides Will Prevail must grab the listener and keep their attention if it wants to succeed.
And parts of The Tides Will Prevail do succeed. The final third of opener “33rd Parallel” pummels you with heavy drumming while the twin-guitar melody sends the listener to the friendly skies. Immediate follow-up “1913” comes the closest to achieving a somber, foreboding lurch that fills your heart with sorrow and dread. When these moments pop up, Kenoma display themselves as talented musicians capable of a good melody and a penchant for bringing the heaviness as needed.
But I’m not reviewing parts of songs here, and that’s where The Tides Will Prevail trips on itself. Plainly put, there is a major self-editing problem. The first two-thirds of “33rd Parallel” drag on too much with little to keep the listener invested, and that’s a problem when the song is over 10 minutes long. “Sleeping Prophet,” the shortest song on here at just under 7 minutes, feels triple that length due to the lack of a good hook. Closer “Nature of Empire,” the longest track at just under 14 minutes, feels like a marathon where the victor gets shot once they cross the finish line. And when there is a good riff, it’s beaten down so much that it loses its potency after several minutes of repetition.
At least it sounds good. You feel the heft of the bass and the organic thunder of the drums. The guitars possess enough bite to be effective. Speaking of guitars though, their Facebook page lists three guitarists, and yet I not once heard anything that would indicate the necessity of a third guitarist. But beyond that, the songwriting needs help. Bands like Russian Circles and Caspian not only apply hooks in droves within their songs, but also know when to stop a song and move on. Cutting the fat makes a tune stronger while staving off boredom, and there’s chunks of fat and gristle here.
Kenoma are talented musicians, and parts of The Tides Will Prevail show flashes of brilliance. However, like Hemelbestormer before them, if you drag on for too long, the message gets lost, the light fades, and the heft loses its potency. I hope the next go-around makes bigger waves, because this tide washed itself out before hitting the shore.