Kyning – Ān [Things You Might Have Missed 2021]

Vocals are almost always a focal point in modern music of any type.1 Pop music is practically exclusively about vocalists, hip-hop is defined solely by its vocal style, and so on. Metal vocals oftentimes attempt to buck the trends, whether they’re unintelligible, buried beneath the music, or simply a mediocre afterthought. The latter option is more common in stoner metal, and that is where our path leads today. Ordinarily, I’d now prepare you for a disappointing vocalist buried beneath fuzzy riffs. But since this is a TYMHM, I wouldn’t bring you a band anything less than exceptional. Kyning’s vocalist Johannes Vogel fits that description.

His clean voice is certainly not classically beautiful. With his thin, reedy timbre, he rather recalls a quivering noble at the court of King Arthur, especially with his haughty pronunciation. But it’s this level of character his presence brings to the music, and he does not stop there. Whereas most vocalists switch distortion on and off, he is an absolute beast at dosing his distortion with lethal precision, as if he’s operating a slider on a switchboard. It’s used to emphasize individual syllables, smashes through the windows in the middle of the sentence like a sudden downpour, or digs deep underground into subterranean growl territory. Combined with his very particular voice, the haughty noble becomes a deranged prophet of doom, and it adds untold layers of dynamics to a platter of grungy stoner whose cut is already well above average.

Because unlike pop and hip-hop, an exceptional metal vocalist can elevate good material, but they can’t make up for bad material entirely. Kyning’s got nothing to be embarrassed about, however. While they wisely let Vogel take the spotlight, it takes all of three seconds of opener “Bury Me Closer” to demonstrate deadly skill at crafting infectious hooks. The riffs don’t stop coming from there on out, with the steamrolling “The Once and Future King” a particular highlight. While conforming to the base ideas of stoner, Kyning has a way of bucking trends of the genre. Ān eschews extraneous fuzz for a more compact, punchy sound, with a touch of grunge. But it still knows how to play with psychedelic passages, such as the gorgeous midsection of “A Spring Harvest.”

Sure, there are a few quibbles here and there. The doomy “Yokai’s Reach” is a bit overlong, and a few individual moments find Vogel’s reediness as just momentarily grating. But by the time the stunning apocalyptic visions of “Preacher” come round to finish out the album, such nitpicks are easily forgiven. Kyning’s crafted a slobberknocker of a debut, full of grit and hooks and personality, elevated by a unique vocal approach. Ān is easily the best and most unique stoner I’ve heard in years.

Tracks to Check Out: “Bury Me Closer,” “Hate//Fear” and “Preacher”

Show 1 footnote

  1. Well, not instrumental, but you catch my drift.
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