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Hunted artwork
  • 20 Buck Spin

Denver’s Khemmis traffic in longform doom metal, letting their anger spread gradually rather than unleashing it all in one torrent.

Denver’s Khemmis traffic in longform doom metal, letting their anger spread gradually rather than unleashing it all in one torrent. It’s an unlikely sound to gain wider attention, as it’s resistant to translation and often encourages the depression that’s consistent with its tempos. Where many of their peers double down on Master of Reality worship or tread into more psychedelic or progressive waters (as is the case with Pallbearer, their main contemporary), they elongate the time-worn dual guitar harmonies of Thin Lizzy and Judas Priest, working within a more traditional metal context. Hunted, their second record, sees them making strides in finding their sound, with leads as poignant as their accompanying vocal work.

When your band’s vibe derives mainly from the melody, those leads better be solid, and Khemmis’ core, guitarists and vocalists Phil Pendergast and Ben Hutcherson, make the sorrow in their songs downright joyful. Opener “Above the Water” establishes this rule quickly, with jubilant leads that rival Iron Maiden’s sprightly guitar work. They’re not bogged down by Hunted’s overarching gloom; rather, they justify the songs’ weight, serving as a gliding bridge between lumbering cliffs. The ending of “Candlelight” shows how Pendergast and Hutcherson can be tricksters too, by bending what would be a showstopping riff and burying it in the murk. “Beyond the Door” even features a ZZ Top-esque boogie where they sound like Billy Gibbons wandering through a wasteland, the shuffle acting as a last-ditch flare for any sign of life. (Get a Texan in your band—drummer Zach Coleman, who’s also played in cult black metal duos Vasaeleth and Dagon—and that influence is bound to rub off somehow.)

Pendergast’s somber war cry carries the music as much as his own guitar work. His pealing tone suggests mightiness, but what shines through is what a toll such power can take. “Three Gates” plays around with how death metal and doom influences combat each other. “Gates” is also a nod to the Peaceville Three—Anathema, My Dying Bride, and Paradise Lost—whose earlier works fused death metal vocals, doom pacing, and a bleak outlook. Khemmis have stripped the cobwebs off those bands’ more Gothic moments and revealed the rock ‘n’ roll heart lurking beneath, and “Gates” is a prime example of how their lack of varnish works in their favor.

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