Denver’s Khemmis gained immediate attention from doom fans around the world with the release of their impressive 2015 debut, Absolution. With their modern take on traditional doom, the band travels the same trail as Pallbearer and Yob, while wielding the double-barrelled attack of Phil Pendergast’s clean, expressive vocals, foreboding lyrics and some seriously melodic guitars.
Their follow up, Hunted, refines the sound Khemmis hinted at on Absolution, confirming that this band is a major, pummeling force to be reckoned with.
Hunted is composed of only five songs, each of which is multifaceted and thought-provoking, providing a landscape where crushing heaviness coexists with buoyant melodies. Each song twists and turns in unexpected ways, always leaving the listener to wonder exactly what’s going to come next.
Serpentine double riffing might give way to a dirge-like breakdown. Pendergast’s clean vocals are often punctuated by harsh growls. On one of the album’s most ripping songs, “Three Gates,” guest vocalist Grant Netzorg of In the Company of Serpents even takes the lead for a good chunk of the song.
At their heart, Khemmis are really just a damn good rock band that draws from an impeccable array of influences old and new, from Judas Priest to Iron Maiden to High on Fire. They’re at their best on the album’s closing title track, a 13 and a half minute showstopping opus that starts with chunky rhythm and Thin Lizzy worshiping licks, then swells into a crescendo of searing guitars.
The song ends with a shimmering melodic part that carries Pendergast’s multi-tracked vocals into the sky. It’s a perfect ending to a transcendent album, that’s a serious contender, along with recent releases by Sub Rosa and Inter Arma, for album of the year.
(released October 21, 2016 on 20 Buck Spin)