With doom metal splintering into so many different subgenres and spitting forth so many great releases, it’s become a tough genre to keep track of, let alone separate the wheat from the chaff. Denver’s Khemmis are grounded in traditional doom, yet bring in elements of fuzzy stoner metal and, at times, knuckle-dragging sludge on their debut full length, Absolution. But don’t think they stop there: the band also incorporates elements of the best classic rock and chills you to the core with their vocal harmonies. All told, it’s a highly entertaining listen.
I’ll admit, I wasn’t aware of Khemmis before listening to this thing. But somewhere deep within the twin guitar melodies and soaring vocals on opener “Torn Asunder,” they grabbed me—hook, line and sinker. There’s just something about the fuzzy sounding guitars that hits me in the right way, particularly the way axe-men Phil and Ben transition from fuzz to the clean melodies. It’s incredibly captivating.
The opening minutes of “Ash, Cinder, Smoke” are unabashedly doomy, with their slower pacing and the spacious feel. Little by little, the bright vocal melodies turn dark, with growled vocals that straddle a fine line between sludge and hardcore. But the band really uncurls on “Serpentine,” stretching itself out to a fine, Sabbathian jam. The drumming here is really something to behold; Zach shows incredible restraint and cleverly avoids overusing his cymbals. “Antediluvian” and “Burden of Sin” share the same traits, but get heavier and harder than anything we’ve heard to this point, diving headfirst into a mammoth-sized pit of sludge.
Closer “The Bereaved” is, well…just epic. It’ll hit you on the kind of emotional level that Pallbearer’s best stuff does. The heavy, rumbling bass lines are a force to be reckoned with, and when you factor in the guitar parts and lyrical content, it becomes a real heart-stopper. It closes on a high note with some serious axe-wielding and a spot-on High Spirits vocal line.
What a ride on a roller coaster of jams, metal and emotions this thing is. There’s so much power in the songwriting and overall delivery in each of Absolution‘s six tracks, and so many nods to the bygone era of classic rock acts like Deep Purple and Blue Cheer. Stick them all in a blender with a traditional doom sound and pack it tightly together, and you get this unique and entirely entrancing debut release. In this case, the wheat has safely been parted from the chaff, and Khemmis has come out on top.