As someone who prides themselves in knowing their black metal, it feels I have encountered a diamond in the rough with the Indonesian band/entity Kekal, whom have put out an impressive number of records in the last 27 years. Having originally heard 2018’s Deeper Underground in the last couple of years, Kekal impressed me with their blend of genres that reminded me of a more accessible Igorr, melding avant-garde black metal, electronica, and post-metal together into this chaotic yet colorful sound that swept me off my feet. Having missed out on their previous release, I decided to skip ahead and see what Envisaged had to offer, as my curiosity was once again piqued by this incredibly mysterious band.
In comparison to Deeper Underground, the music on Envisaged feels organic and cinematic, as if it was created and recorded while having a fleeting thought. On a first listen, it almost feels like a stream-of-consciousness recording, where different snatches of music were spliced together to create something otherworldly and eerie. Despite that eeriness, Kekal keeps itself restrained, allowing the listener to immerse themselves into the music without much pushback. You can’t help but move along to its hypnotic beat and be slightly put off when that beat is broken by the black metal that kicks in when you least expect it. However, the band is masterful at quickly pulling you back in, melding that black metal with the hypnotic electronic beat that makes you want to move in your chair. It flows so seamlessly that it makes you wonder why this hasn’t been incorporated to this degree in the more experimental corners of black metal. Although this sort of experimentation is more akin to noise rock and electronic rock, I am surprised this level of musical mixing hasn’t transferred to the more well-regarded aspects of black metal, as I think this would introduce new life into the genre.
On subsequent listens, you begin notice that Kekal wears some of their inspirations on their sleeve. For example, there is also this thematic motif on “Conduit of Light” that reminded me so much of a Nine Inch Nails remix that I couldn’t help but think that they heard it somewhere and opted to remix that themselves. It was fleeting but poignant, allowing the listener to pick up on how a band can take borrow something from another metal-adjacent band and make it their own. The band is also not afraid to add rock-n-roll elements, giving their music a dramatic yet fun flair. Considering that more well-known bands like Darkthrone and Satyricon have added rock-n-roll sounds to their music in recent years, this does not seem out of place.
All in all, Envisaged is a breath of fresh air within the stuffy confines of what the avant-garde should be and sound like, continuing to reward the listener the more time they spend with it. Because of their music’s nature, Kekal manages to come off as a band who clearly know how their musical structure works and how they can best maximize the influences they feel invested in exploring. Envisaged may come off as jarring and quirky at a first listen, but it’s one of those albums that sticks with you long after it’s over.
Envisaged is available July 15 from Kekal (digital) and Elevation Records (physical). Fore more information on Kekal check out their website and social media links (Facebook/Instagram)