Khôra – Timaeus Review

Once again, I picked promo for an irrelevant reason. German/Irish blackened death trio Khôra wound up in my review queue because their name sounds like the name of one of our cats (Kora). I feel like that’s a perfectly reasonable justification for album selection. If it isn’t, well, then I guess I don’t care. Khôra doesn’t care either, and put out whatever the hell they want regardless of what your tastes or expectations are. Timaeus, their debut album, throws everything plus the kitchen sink at you to sort out for yourself. Thankfully, investing the time this kind of record requires reveals a dynamic and energetic adventure that should appeal to metalheads across the spectrum.

At this point I owe a certain commenter of the Porkinsian persuasion a debt of gratitude, for his impressions of Khôra’s work (so far as it was available at the time) put the entire album into perspective which I lacked. In 1995, a weirdo avant-garde black metal band named Ved Buens Ende released a record entitled Written in Waters. While I enjoy that record a fair amount, it was out of my wheelhouse. However, upon returning to Timaeus after spinning Written in Waters a couple of times I realized how much the former owes its existence to the latter. They aren’t the same by any means—Khôra utilizes elements of Native Construct’s exuberant scales and fuse them with Ars Magna Umbrae’s dissonant riffing style—but a full understanding of what Khôra accomplish is incomplete without taking Ved Buens Ende’s undeniable influence into account.

All that means nothing, of course, if the output quality is not substantial. Fortunately, Khôra forge an exciting path through psychedelic and twisted soundscapes replete with monstrosities and curiosities galore. Take “Havesting Stars,” for instance. Among my favorite songs on the record, “Harvesting Stars” boasts thick atmosphere and eerie baritones which strongly recall Ved Buens Ende, but with enough accessibility to make it immediately memorable. “l’Annihilateur,” too, impresses with emotive choruses, which would normally seem at odds with the relative extremity of the surrounding environs, but they somehow elevate the number instead. The atmospheric leanings of “Roe Too Noo (Flow of the Mind)” bring more of that Ars Magna Umbrae flavor to the affair, but a light symphonic touch conjures just the right amount of opulence to enhance the cut. Not to be ignored, “Sempiternal” and “The Purge” might be the most brutish of the bunch, pummeling their victims with prejudice, their weapon of choice being the almighty riff. Yet even in these more straightforward offerings Khôra throw in decorations that increase the value of their music rather than cheapen it.

Khôra crafted Timaeus in such a way that it does exactly what I need, and it often anticipates those needs as well as I could ever reasonably expect. The band makes this possible through consistent restraint and smart telegraphing. No song here exceeds five minutes and when you start to feel like any one of them is losing ground, it terminates at roughly the same point. Just when you think a song needs to flip a new switch, Khôra oblige and sometimes whip up a small bonus—a flourish of the piano or delightful vocal distortion—just for good measure (“Existence” and “The Purge”). At other times, the intensity can wear out travelers looking for a place to rest, and as if on cue Timaeus clears the way to something slower or softer (“The Occultation of Time” into gorgeous closer “Void”). A final point, I commend the band’s tasteful assignment of orchestrations to second chair instead of shoving them onto the conductor’s podium, a choice which creates lush but unobtrusive soundscapes.

Which brings me to the one thing I wish Khôra did differently: production. Generally Timaeus sounds good, with fabulous bass tones, both drum and guitar. But all across the record Khôra threaten me with an unsightly clip or pop. True clipping never manifests, but a small amount of fuzzy corruption pushes the seam of that envelope. Even ignoring that phenomenon, the few moments where the symphonic elements receive the spotlight require more breathing room. As it is, instruments may get lost in the chaos and so these interactions become more difficult to parse. Nevertheless, Khôra’s debut deserves to be enjoyed, and often. Go forth, dear reader, into the swirling maelstrom of Timaeus.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Soulseller Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: April 17th, 2020

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