I’ve collected in this post reviews of two EPs that I’ve been enjoying lately and would like to recommend.
The Finnish band Khanus first released their debut EP, Rites of Fire, in February of this year as a digital download, and also made it available on a small number of cassette tapes.
I learned about the EP through the recent announcement that I, Voidhanger Records will be releasing it in a limited edition of digipack CDs on May 6 — and that the band are now working on a debut full-length that will also be released by I, Voidhanger; the line-up for the new recording will include drummer Lordt of Code (a band that was the subject of Andy Synn’s most recent SYNN REPORT).
The association with I, Voidhanger was by itself enough inducement to explore the music, but the cover art drawn by Romanian artist Luciana Nedelea (who has quickly become a personal favorite) is awfully enticing as well.
Rites of Spring included four participants: Sovereign (guitars, bass, vocals), Meltiis (soprano and choir), KHAA-man (shamanic drumming and chants), and session drummer Timo Anttonen — though new drummer Lordt is the one pictured above to the far right.
The four tracks on the EP — which were originally designed to fit onto a single 7″ record — fly by too fast, with the EP ending in less than 14 minutes. I don’t mean that as a musical criticism, just a selfish bitch — because the songs have left me wanting more.
As you might expect from the fact that I, Voidhanger was drawn to this band, it’s not straight-forward, orthodox music of any clearly defined genre. It resembles death metal in many respects, from the gravelly vocal croaks, growls, and groans to the beefy riff hammers and pummeling drum barrages that the band break out from time to time. But the guitarist and bassist is just as prone to launch himself off into head-twisting forays that are dark, dissonant, and borderline deranged. And the vocalists are just as liable to begin muttering, barking, chanting, engaging in dramatical recitals, or yelling demented proclamations to the skies. And I believe I did note the presence of a soprano who briefly provides choral vocals, so there’s that, too.
There’s also a bit of black metal in the mix (at least spiritually), and often the candle-wax aroma of an occult ceremony in progress. The music keeps the tension and unease tightly coiled at almost all times, yet it has a fascinating ability to hypnotize as it’s simultaneously putting your teeth on edge. I’m not sure how that happens, but it does.
For the adventurous and imaginative among you, and for those seeking something that’s out of the ordinary yet also satisfies the hunger for predatory extremity, Khanus should be a welcome discovery. I for one will certainly welcome that debut album that’s in the works.
The CD edition of Rites of Fire can be pre-ordered at the I, Voidhanger Bandcamp, and copies of the tape still appear to be available at the Khanus Bandcamp page; both are linked below. And the album can be downloaded at both places, too.
This Boston band originally released their self-titled debut EP as a Bandcamp download in March 2015, and then a London label named Third I Rex re-released it on CD in late February of this year. I’ve already forgotten how I came across it, but I’m glad I finally did.
I should write more about the EP than I have time to do, but I didn’t want to ignore the music altogether simply because I’m pressed for time. The band have a real talent for laying down truly massive, bunker-busting doom riffs and bass and drum rhythms that sound like meteor impacts in a frozen wasteland. But they also have a talent for crafting both hard-driving hooks and chiming, spellbinding guitar melodies. To reflect the dichotomies in the music, the vocals vary from gritty, wrenching yells to savage growls to haunting clean song.
If you’re looking for genre references, I would say a blending of doom, sludge, and post-metal. You can get your head caved in listening to Sea, and you can get high listening to it, too. A very fine trip indeed.
(This release can be ordered on CD via the label’s Bandcamp page or digitally downloaded (name your price) at SEA’s Bandcamp — the links are below.)