Aug 012011

(Andy Synn persists in stretching the limits of NO CLEAN SINGING with his review of the latest album by Sweden’s Khoma. Actually, to be brutally honest, he’s ignoring our limits.)

In the words of my forefathers… and now for something completely different!

Melding the post-metal sensibilities of Cult Of Luna (with whom they share several members) with a Radiohead-like panache for gloomy introversion, Khoma are a very different entity from those you may be accustomed to encountering here at NoCleanSinging. Their shining, progressive post-rock has etched out 3 albums and one EP to date, each one a taut, compressed explosion of scintillating atmosphere and shimmering melody that echoes the sweeping sonic vistas of Sigur Ros whilst dancing on the edge of oblivion, seemingly always just one step away from collapsing into its own subdued despair.

Over three years passed between the release of Khoma’s impressive sophomore album The Second Wave and the recording of their latest release, 2010’s  A Final Storm — long enough that many believed Khoma had quietly disbanded, a hazy dissolution into obscurity and oblivion, leaving behind perhaps only the vaguest of musical legacies. Thankfully, the rumours of their demise were greatly exaggerated, the band having instead simply turned their backs on the world for a time in order to cultivate the fruits of their labours into full and vibrant bloom. (more after the jump . . .)

Army Of One” kicks off the record in bombastic fashion, electric riffs and roiling bass-lines twisting and twining. Although the music breathes fire, the clear and melodious vocals of Jan Jämte act as a cooling wind, subduing the flames into glowing embers that dazzle and delight, redolent with the potential for future ignition. Stormy thunderclouds of gigantic chords and clashing cymbals envelop the listener in their elemental fury as the song draws to a close, the band hammering at their instruments in an almost ritualistic frenzy.

“From The Hands Of Sinner” is possessed of a disarming tenderness that belies its clattering opening. Jan Jämte’s vocals truly soar during the track’s prominent chorus, while the guitars forge on with an overdriven force that recalls Tool’s simpler, more direct, moments. Resonating chords flush with character ring out during the track’s more divergent moments, maintaining clarity of vision that guides the song’s progressive wanderings.

Where “Harvest” is pale and spectral, “Osiris” is dark and foreboding, each a distorted reflection of the other’s sorrow. The former summons up the ghost of Porcupine Tree, brittle-as-glass vocals scratching away atop a sparse piano refrain, accented by inflections of wistful cello and spacey guitar work, while the latter is a more aggressive number that melds tribal drum patterns with the biting friction of clashing post-metal guitars, overlain with slender vocal codas and stark leads.

A doomy melancholy pervades “A Final Storm”, eerie chords and odd lead patterns whispering madly as a nebulous core of bass and drums move in slow and steady step with one another. The ebb and flow of silent contemplation and strident uproar is conducted by the unwavering snare beat of Thomas Hedlund’s drums, controlling the track’s electric ardour with careful precision right up until its final crescendo, where it shifts into darker, more threatening tones.

The ethereal beauty of “Inquisition” disguises the track’s deeper exploration of inner darkness personal sorrow, a bitter romance between love and loss, fear and faith set to a soundtrack of stately piano and subtle electronica, which leads into the dense and forbidding “The Tide”. Incorporating shades of Deftones and Sigur Ros, yet still retaining its own distinctive sound and identity, the track benefits from a truly zealous drumming performance and Jan Jämte’s strained, impassioned vocals.

The elegant and melancholy “All Like Serpents” possesses a sweet aura of hope and unfulfilled longing. Not heavy in a pounding, metallic sense, the track still has a dense and heavy atmosphere latent with untapped energy. The mesmerising piano coda that closes the track is the perfect way for it to end; quiet and unassuming it drifts off into dreamless sleep, its turbulent energy expended.

Drawing on more esoteric, less metal influences, the Radiohead-esque “In It For Fighting” retains a rockier, stormy vitality which sets it apart from other, similarly morose and introverted musical acts. Exploring similarly romantic, 80’s influences as those which inform the sounds of Deftones and A Perfect Circle, it yet remains singularly driven and lacks the indignant self-obsession which these retro themes would otherwise suggest, its questioning chorus seeking to explain and escape from this confinement.

Closing with the pairing of the short and moody “By The Gallows” and the more overtly progressive “Mist”, the album ends on a graceful high note. “By The Gallows” develops slowly and languidly as a series of layers of inter-locking and accentuating guitar parts build toward a stunning and reverential conclusion, while “Mist” weaves restrained, anguished vocal melodies over throbbing, minimalist electronica and shifting, rhythmic drum patterns whose tortured restraint eventually erupts in a series of compressed, edgy detonations of clashing chords and shimmering cymbals.

Immersing oneself in this album is like diving into an unknown ocean, deep and dark but achingly beautiful. Vast waves of emotion rise up from the depths, threatening to unseat and overwhelm the listener. Its power comes from within, a heaviness that manifests itself in surging elemental force and bleak, desolate stillness.

Sample Song: “A Final Storm”

[audio:|titles=Khoma – A Final Storm]


A Final Storm was released in April 2010 by Selective Notes. To get more info about Khoma, their official site is at this place and their facebook page is here.

  13 Responses to “KHOMA: “A FINAL STORM””

  1. I’m not above having my horizons broadened as long as you’ve been tested (you’ve been tested, right?). I am willing to give clean vocals a chance especially if I feel that there is something new there that I haven’t heard before (such as the dual baritones in Heidevolk) OR if there is appropriately unclean vocals mixed in (viz., the Enslaved album “Isa” that is currently grinding around in my media player). However after giving this track a few plays I confess I am not finding much to like about it. In fact “emo rock” was the first thing that came to mind when I listened to it. I definitely hear the Radiohead and A Perfect Circle influences you mentioned but I am missing the “edge” (for want of a better term) that either of those bands might be said to possess.

  2. I actually quite liked the song. I don’t really hear the Radiohead influence, but the only Radiohead album I’m at all familiar with is Amnesiac. (I can’t listen to that album anymore, though, without smelling burning hair and flesh. What a weird summer that was…)

    However, the A Perfect Circle influences are coming through very clearly, and I rather liked Thirteenth Step and the first album too. I think they’re different enough that there are no toes being stepped on.

    Anyway, I think the song had excellent atmosphere, and while the singer does sound a bit emo-y at the beginning, I think it suits the song well and he keeps it this side of annoying….

    All that said, not sure if I’m inspired to actually get the album.

    It does remind me of a very non-metal band that I got into a bit last year called Shearwater.

  3. See? We can behave.

  4. Emo-rock isn’t necessarily a negative epithet in this case, after all I hear shades of Deftones, APC, Sigur Ros, and Radiohead here, all of whom have often been considered rather emotionally… fragile and histrionic. They do occasionally bring the “heavy” from their Cult Of Luna-roots, but it’s a more emotional, moody heaviness, than a particularly metal heaviness. More like latter day Extol.

    Interestingly I don’t actually like Radiohead at all. Perhaps these guys fill the gap?

    If you aren’t feeling that track try the opener, “Army Of One” which starts the album off in a slightly more bombastic style.

  5. I try not to be Judgy McJudgerson when it comes to other peoples’ musical tastes, having been on the receiving end of that stick more times than I can remember… so I apologize if my “emo rock” comment came off as insulting. I just meant in the context of this blog and as someone who prefers things a little more bombastic (great word, btw) this sounds more… you know. Emo rocky.

  6. This band owns. Because of my love for Cult of Luna, I got into this band after their first album came. Their 2nd disappointed a bit, but this newest one restored my faith. The heaviness is still retained through the CoL influence, but the melodies are pure greatness.

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