Khemmis – “Doomed Heavy Metal” EP (Nuclear Blast Records)
Named after an ancient city in Egypt, Khemmis definitely bring an exotic style to their sound mixing traditional doom with epic heavy metal. On this lush 6 track EP they mix a pair of rare singles taken from 2017 along with 3 live tracks, and a bold cover of Dio’s ‘Rainbow In The Dark’, all of which they pull off to admirable standards! Given both twin vocalist / guitarists Ben Hutcherson and Phil Pendergast hold PhDs (i.e. Doctorates) goes a long way into explaining why Khemmis is anything than just a standard doom metal band, and is amply echoed across 3 prior full length releases. However, what really grabs me about these guys is that while they pour out an abundance of smog heavy down tuned doom through Iommi certified riffs, they aren’t content to wallow in gloom and misery but instead offer stirring uplift in the form of spirited and beautiful melodies to create a very positive vibe indeed. From the echoing epic vocals that bring so much Southern soul on ‘A Conversation With Death’, added to by soft harmonies and blissful wailing guitars that towards the end speed up and trade heavy metal breaks and solos, you know that Khemmis walk comfortably hand in hand with life and death as their ancient Egyptian inspirations did on this truly spell-bounding track. While the dirty distorted bass of Daniel Beiers contrasted by the hypnotic soul vocal on ‘Empty Throne’ definitely evokes memories for me of early Candlemass, the epic guitar sound and trippy solos definitely add the well thought out differential here to make this truly memorable. On the live front, the band prove that there isn’t much of a difference in their sound to that in the studio, providing abundant soul on the 7 minute ‘Bloodletting’ with its powerful epic tones droning out and melding with down tuned Southern hospitality and also, those moving vocals that really go to your heart in dark embrace, while not forgetting to give you a hammer headbang towards the end – nice! Revving in with ‘Three Gates’ to the roar of the crowd, the thick and dirty sound is close to High On Fire thanks to the harsh vocals and monster riff turns, but when the contrasting soul of resonating high vocals and Southern funeral doom melodies comes into play, the ambient majesty on this 7 minute track is hard to ignore in both its emotion and furor. Opening serenely if somberly, ‘The Bereaved’ gradually builds atmospherically until finally erupting in gigantic Southern doom riffola although not without tinges of Southern melody exquisitely topping off the gargantuan chugging sound on this 9 minute titan, while the high and passionate vocals are nothing short of tear welling in their moving soul, holding you in trance along with massive doses of warbles, wails and wah. As heart breaking as they are headbanging, Khemmis go a long way on this sterling release to prove that there is indeed beauty in death.