From my experience, the most quintessential bands in metal tend to be the ones that defy classification. This does not mean throwing in nonsensical song structures or gimmicky instrumentation, but rather embracing and combining so many different aspects of metal that it becomes hard to tell which subgenre is purely represented. On Khemmis’s second full-length album, the Denver-based quartet provides yet another slab of the genre blending style that has made them one of the most acclaimed bands in the underground scene.
Seeing how Hunted has been released just a short year after their debut Absolution, it isn’t too surprising to note similarities between the two approaches. The group’s overall presentation is somewhere between the battle doom aesthetic displayed by High on Fire or Conan and the mopey downer rock of Pallbearer’s ilk, but there are also shades of classic metal at work. The guitars exercise plenty of twin harmonies, the vocals are clean and clear with occasional harsh interruptions, and even the most drawn out dirges can find a way to incorporate a steady gallop.
If anything, Hunted shows just much more comfortable with their style Khemmis has become in a year’s time. The tempo transitions are smoother and the songs seem to be faster and more active than they were before. The vocals also show much more confidence this time around as clean deliveries lead the charge during the speeds of the opening “Above the Water” as well as the plodding on “Candlelight.” Harsher vocals still pop up on occasion and even dominate the particularly heavy chugs on “Three Gates,” but their moments as a whole are fewer and far between.
And while there are only five songs, the longer lengths still allow for a good deal of variety. “Candlelight” provides an early climax as the vocals and guitars gain intensity without sacrificing the building pace. In addition, “Beyond the Door” provides shades of classic Paradise Lost with its especially melancholic delivery and the closing title track keeps a steady momentum through its thirteen and a half minute duration.
Overall, Khemmis is much more confident on Hunted than they were before and prove to be a near perfect example of metal genre blending. While they are far from being a middle of the road group, they’re the perfect recommendation for anyone who ever wished Iron Maiden was more pummeling or High on Fire was more melodic. I get the feeling they may be on the edge of a major breakthrough and I’ll be happy to say that I was there just before it happened.
“Beyond the Door”