Formed in 2012 in Denver USA, doomed heavy metal outfit KHEMMIS has released a body of work which paints a unique portrait of the human condition, weaving together influences from all corners of the metal music world. They transcend the genre boundaries of traditional doom metal with their elegant yet dramatic compositions and diverse array of influences.
Debut record Absolution earned the group outright critical praise from the underground, including a place on Decibel’s “Top 40 Albums of the Year” list. Hunted broke down even more barriers, earning KHEMMIS widespread recognition. The record received glowing reviews at MetalSucks, Metal Injection and Pitchfork, as well as a spot in Rolling Stone’s “20 Best Metal Albums of 2016” list and Decibel’s highly sought after “Album of the Year” accolade. Not many bands out there can boast about being compared to the likes of THIN LIZZY, ZZ TOP, PARADISE LOST, MY DYING BRIDE and JUDAS PRIEST.
In 2018, after wrapping up the Decibel Magazine Tour with Enslaved, Wolves In The Throne Room and Myrkur, the excitement for KHEMMIS’ third album Desolation was palpable across the metal spectrum. From the stadium-sized opening notes of “Bloodletting” to the epic closer “From Ruin, ”it is immediately evident that KHEMMIS again put distance between themselves and their earlier influences to inform a sound that is singularly their own. Though undeniably influenced by doom and classic metal, to tag the quartet with those labels doesn’t do justice to what they’ve accomplished. Theirs is a perfect representation of modern heavy metal that integrates the past in a way only possible with the faculty of hindsight. The album earned widespread critical praise from the global metal press and marked the band’s first appearance on the Billboard charts. Tours with The Black Dahlia Murder and Pig Destroyer, a series of headlining North American tours, as well as appearances at Roadburn, Heavy Montreal, and Domination Fest in Mexico City, expanded the growing legion of Khemmis fans around the world.
Restlessly awakening from the depths of a feverish slumber, KHEMMIS has returned with their fourth full length studio album, Deceiver, arriving via Nuclear Blast Records in November 2021. Six tracks of soul-awakening heaviness encapsulate a project nearly three years in the making. While the lyrical themes of Deceiver–sorrow, pain, longing for hope–will no doubt be familiar to longtime fans, these songs display a broader collection of musical influences than on any other KHEMMIS record to date. With a title that reflects the internal struggles that many of us battle in our daily lives, Deceiver is a ferociously honest and appetizingly raw piece of musical artistry which has already earned universal acclaim from publications around the world, including Metal Hammer, Decibel Magazine, Kerrang!, and many more.
The future of British metal lies in safe hands with CONJURER, who continue their journey as the country’s most exciting young metal band with their incredible new album Páthos (Nuclear Blast).
A triumphant return from CONJURER following their world-renowned 2018 debut Mire, Páthos is a band flexing their creative muscles, deepening their approach and thought, and expanding their sound.
Opener ‘It Dwells’ is the perfect introduction – earth-shatteringly heavy, unconventional, uniquely beautiful, and instantly recognisable as CONJURER. The track is centred on the contradictions of the emotion of ‘fear’ – that fear can be comfortable and constant, haunting and crushing. It builds to a point of breaking – the need to end fear battling against your will to go on. The repeated screams ‘I’ll have peace’ are an ambivalent declaration of defiance – give in, or fight, either way fear is gone.
Track two ‘Rot’ continues this theme – a lumbering monster of a song, it’s a conversation between a person’s sense of self and their anxieties. As the song progresses both perspectives unify – the ‘I’ becoming ‘we’, the two halves becoming one. It’s a tortured, battered listening experience, and a blistering reminder of why the young band have become so praised so quickly.
Páthos is not an album for the half-hearted or faint-hearted. Elements of Sumac, Gojira, old Mastodon and Sumac, the new record is a multi-layered beast – sludge, death, doom, black metal and hardcore influences clash and collide throughout, all masterfully finished by Will Putney’s exquisite production.
The fifty-minute runtime of Páthos is not without it’s moments of the sublime. Post-metal nods to CONJURER and PIJN’s acclaimed Curse These Metal Hands project are heard throughout, most notably in track three, ‘All You Will Remember’, and the mighty, philosophical closer ‘Cracks In The Pyre’.
An suitably open-ended climax, Páthos ends with an expansive look at loss and the afterlife. That a band can be at once so triumphantly beautiful and gut-punchingly heavy is testament to CONJURER’s quality, and a surefire sign of their future longevity at the top of Britain’s heavy music scene.
CONJURER’s debut full-length Mire (2018) was released to a storm of attention from across the metal world, garnering significant acclaim from Metal Hammer UK, Kerrang!, BBC R1, Visions Mag (DE), MetalSucks, Metal Injection, Loudwire and many more. Recipients of award nominations (Kerrang!, Heavy Music Awards, Metal Hammer’s Golden Gods) and countless albums of the year lists, Mire is a stunning listen, capturing the attitude of a young band who already know exactly who they are.
Hailed as one of the metal world’s most devastating, thrilling experiences, CONJURER are a band never content to rest. Following Mire’s release in 2018 the quartet soon toured Europe for the first time, appeared at multiple UK festivals, and support of doom titans Conan and Will Haven.
In the following years the band have toured the US twice, supporting Rivers of Nihil (stopping to record an Audiotree session along the way), and then Voivod, with Revocation. 2019 also saw CONJURER’s debut Download Festival appearance, thrilling a packed-out Dogtooth stage, and the release of the joyous collaborative project with Pijn, titled Curse These Metal Hands.
It was only at the end of 2019 that CONJURER closed out their triumphant Mire cycle, with a sold-out UK run – their debut headline tour. Using the COVID-19 pandemic to record and craft Páthos, CONJURER returned to the live setting performing at the Download Pilot 2021 and Bloodstock 2021 mainstages.
Canada’s WAKE have never been a band interested in repeating themselves, this abundantly apparent from their discography, having evolved with every release. 2020’s Devouring Ruin made this more clear than ever, hammering the point home with the Confluence EP in the same year, and now they return with Thought Form Descent, their most dynamic, diverse and emotional release to date. “I’d describe the record as a place to reconsider what ‘extreme’ means. The words ‘brutal’, ‘crushing’, ‘devastating’ are overused adjectives for extreme music. We wanted to force people to confront the idea that ‘brutal’ or ‘extreme’ ideas aren’t just blastbeats or angular tritones, or, more importantly, ‘brutal’ elements alongside pointedly passive elements can create their own experience that can channel both and neither.” The result is eight nuanced tracks that run the gamut from relentlessly heavy to exquisitely beautiful, often simultaneously, and instantly grab hold of the listener, demanding their full attention. However, at the same time, they are lushly textured and densely layered, and offer more with every subsequent exposure, unfurling to show hidden depths, and taking WAKE to a whole new level.
Having been forced to scrap touring plans for Devouring Ruin due to the coronavirus pandemic, the band instead went straight to work on Confluence, and as soon as that was finished they started on Thought Form Descent, not pausing between releases. Writing so much over a relatively short period of time absolutely affected the approach to the latest record. “It was definitely on everyone’s mind that we needed some new elements. It was never clear how or why, but I think the idea of repeating the same ideas again, within the same calendar year, was just too boring to consider. When you’re in the process of fleshing out the reasonably intensive process of finishing a record you tend to over-analyze every tiny variable, but in retrospect we definitely had conversations about new levels, new textures, and new arrangements.” Being in ‘the zone’ definitely helped the band to write, but at the same time they recognized that there were downsides to this. Having been writing so consistently and with few breaks, the members realized that just letting songs flow naturally would result in producing the same song over and over again. “There was a distinct effort to force the issue and disrupt our process. It was time for ultimatums. There were a fair few slowdowns and puzzling moments to overcome as we adjusted from what felt natural to what we suspected, objectively, was better.”
The title Thought Form Descent comes from the idea of creating “a sort of labyrinth within the mind and manifesting it into physical reality, and descending into it”, which ties into the lyrics, vocalist Kyle Ball this time taking a different approach to writing. “Instead of using my personal issues as the focal point I wrote a non-linear fiction story that focuses on escapism and existentialism. I do incorporate personal issues/experiences into the plot of the story, the character could more or less be me, but it’s definitely more embellished than my usual writing, with it focusing more on the story than it does on myself.” The basic plot is about a character who is faced with his own insignificance, and who finds himself at odds with waking life and discovers a greater meaning in the unknown. Through the means of lucid dreaming, meditation and altered states, he travels to places unknown and for better or worse discovers what is behind the doors of reality. On “Mourning Dirge (Repose of the Dead)” the character “who has come to odds with life after a near death experience that had seemed to reveal another plane of existence or something greater, delves into a world of altered states and discovers he can reach something similar to what he experienced near death. He becomes enamored with the idea that something else exists, and starts falling deep into the well of obscurity.” Then, on “Infinite Inward” the character “at this point, lost between whatever is considered reality and places traveled, incorporates a meditation ritual called ‘the digging method’. Through that method he creates a sort of both physical and metaphysical labyrinth that the majority of the remaining story will take place in.” With “Venerate (The Undoing of All)”, the character “confused over whether the astral self or physical self is the true existence, finds himself at battle within two conscious states which are tearing between two realities. Ultimately, trying to undo both into absolute nothingness and ceasing to exist entirely.”
To track the album, the band once again collaborated with Dave Otero (Allegaeon, Cattle Decapitation) at Flatline Audio in Denver, CO. “Dave is someone who does something we love – supersedes what people think of him. Sure, he recorded many successful death metal albums, but his ability to understand pop music and its composition, his knowledge of music theory and his willingness to get right into the movement of a song and its chord progressions, not just the riffs, are things that go way beyond ‘death metal’. He can make hard right turns into wildly different sonic territory without batting an eyelash, and he always has an idea during the deviation, too. He contributed a lot to this record.” Having prepared exhaustively in advance, once in the studio the band were able to try new things, play with ideas and rearrange songs, having the time to go down the proverbial rabbit hole and see where it took them. Kevin Hufnagel of Gorguts also makes an appearance, playing guitar on “Pareidolia” and “Observer To Master”, the latter track one of the most melodic on the record.
At this stage WAKE are happy to have plans to return to the road, with two albums’ worth of material that has yet to be played live, and they are comfortable with where they stand and the role they play in 2022. “The challenges we present listeners with are simple, but cumulatively, they sum to something difficult to categorize without serious mental acrobatics. I think many bands have very specific goals, and I think that’s certainly a product of the current state of the music industry and society in general. WAKE works hard to be subversive in ways you might not notice initially, and that’s one of the things that makes us vital – not being afraid to sacrifice short-term gains in order to build an output which stays consistent amidst many surface-level changes. That way, any territory we see fit to mine will still remain familiar, despite the aesthetic changes. As an ethos, this is a stark contrast from most metal artists today, who generally seek to be ‘best in class’ for their specific genre. Our sound will always lurk between any sonic element we introduce, no matter the genre, tempo or timbre.”