Critical doom metal darlings Khemmis are back with their fourth album Deceiver, after the longest gap between releases yet. Three years is a long time when the band had released three albums in the four years previous, but a lot was happening in the world and in their personal lives; getting an album from the now-trio this year is a blessing to fans. And after three albums with the same iconic characters gracing the covers, Deceiver‘s cover is adorned with a new hero. Has the band’s music also changed?
Not changed so much as stretched out. Desolation saw the band moving slightly away from doom and making more forays into relatively up-tempo epic traditional metal, but on Deceiver there’s plenty of both across the album’s six songs.
Opener “Avernal Gate” starts with an acoustic intro before coming hard and fast. There’s a little bit of everything in this song: the acoustic intro, the galloping start, the doom verses, the slowly building double-speed climax and harsh vocals towards the end. “Avernal Gate” is almost an encapsulation of everything the band does, and it’s an excellent way to kick off the album.
“Living Pyre” opens in truly epic fashion with a towering riff, then turns into a slow-boiling anthemic march. Through to the midpoint it is heavy doom, then harsh vocals come in and the song virtually explodes on the listener’s ears.
The final song “The Astral Road” is the album highlight, a nine-minute excursion down slightly more up-tempo doom-enshrouded roads, full of mood shifts and perfectly arranged – one of Khemmis’s best songs, loaded with killer lead breaks and a stupendous, arena-ready fist-pounding moment four minutes in.
The rest of Deceiver takes more time to get a handle on – more time perhaps than it should. The band still straddles the line between straightforward doom and traditional epic metal, but the songs don’t immediately hold the listener’s attention.
As far as production goes, this is a great-sounding record. There’s a ton of punch and crunch in all the instruments, and the vocals continue to show improvement, both clean and harsh. In fact, the vocal performances here are incredibly strong.
Deceiver is Khemmis’s most dynamically varied release, and also the one with the least immediate impact. The bookend songs are fantastic and deliver on first listen. The rest of the album takes time to sink in, but if you give it that time you will be rewarded.
(released November 19, 2021 on Nuclear Blast)
Heavy Music HQ Rating:
Listen To Khemmis – “House Of Cadmus”