April 16, 2020 Khemmis – Doomed Heavy Metal (Mini-album Review)
Sludgy quartet Khemmis are set to release Doomed Heavy Metal, a short, sturdy collection of covers, one-off releases, and live songs, as a digital mini-album on Friday, April 17th via Nuclear Blast Records and 20 Buck Spin.
The ink may still be a bit wet on 2018’s Desolation, but in the vein of ZZ Top’s 1975 album Fandango!, Khemmis wanted to collect a few indirect tracks to compliment three live renditions captured during the acclaimed “Two Nights Of Doomed Heavy Metal” event, recorded in front of a hometown crowd in Denver, just before 2018 came to a close. That in mind, each of the six tracks here could be considered a hallmark inclusion, so a gluttony of riches awaits you.
It all begins with a righteous cover of the Dio classic “Rainbow in the Dark,” from the monstrous 1983 debut, Holy Diver. Khemmis spends little time attempting to recreate the famed vocals of Ronnie James Dio, and instead focuses an honest, faithful portrayal that clearly intones how the original version infected the band’s current sound. The next two tracks may be familiar to even the most casual Khemmis fan; though acquiring copies might be a daunting task. First comes “A Conversation With Death,” the band’s rendition of “O Death,” a one-hundred-year-old folk song originally attributed to Preacher/Musician Lloyd Chandler. As with “Rainbow in the Dark,” it is obviously an updated recording, with rich, deep guitar and bass tones, but the vocals keep alive the spirit of the song’s earliest renditions. Then there is “Empty Throne” which originally released through the Decibel’s Flexi Series. This completes the studio efforts here, with a deep, brooding feel that drones on relatively pleasantly for all of its six minutes.
The live tracks take up the second half of the six selections, one each from their studio albums. There is “The Bereaved” from 2015’s Absolution, “Three Gates” from 2016’s Hunted, as well as “Bloodletting” from Desolation. As promised, the recording quality and production here are at the top of their game, thanks largely in part to Producer Dave Otero, but also due to the band members themselves – Bassist Dan Beiers, Drummer Zach Coleman, along with dueling Vocalist/Guitarists Ben Hutcherson and Phil Pendergast.
The skill and musicianship on display shows Khemmis can succeed outside the warm production confines of a recording studio. While “Bloodletting” and “Three Gates” fit in with the dark, morose style the band typically employs to emotes distress and melancholy, they do have their faster moments. In particular, “Three Gates” pulls from their middle album Hunted and it is a fast-paced juggernaut that showcases the growlier vocals employed by Hutcherson. However, the blackness truly descends with the mini-album’s closer, “The Bereaved.” Taking the stage with nine minutes of brutal, crushing sadness, Pendergast and Hutcherson both leave their vocal marks here. The track manages to touch on bits of the original Peaceville Three – Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride, and Anathema – while also demonstrating the raw, modern approach Khemmis employ to update the genre for fresh ears.
All told, Doomed Heavy Metal is both a quick, effective way for unfamiliar listeners to catch hold of Khemmis, as well as an excellent way for existing fans to close the gap on some of their collections. That is why Cryptic Rock gives this mini-album 4.5 out of 5 stars.