Review: Khemmis’ Hunted is Full of Enchantments

I’m really glad Khemmis’ label, 20 Buck Spin, doesn’t charge me every time I listen to this album. I’d already be a few hundred in the hole.

It seems impossible that I have only known about Khemmis for less than a year, since the impression they have made on my musical tastes has been so profound. I was first made aware of their debut last year when Moshoff put Absolution in his top 10 for 2015, and over the next few months, I started to realize that there was such a thing as good, exciting, and relevant stoner/epic doom. When I caught wind they were releasing their sophomore album this year, oddly my first reaction was a sense of fear that they couldn’t live up to the bar they set so high. I think a part of their success was the total shock to the system they gave the genre, and a follow-up that sounded pretty similar might not accomplish the same thing.

Irrational fears aside, when I first saw the album art, I noticed that they seem to be going the Iron Maiden route in having an album-art mascot, which I find perfectly acceptable because wizard-bro looks like he can evoke a thematic tone for years to come. The similarity in imagery made me wonder if there was a connection between lyrical themes as well. I’m not the type to obsess over lyrics, so I had to refresh my memory on Absolution, and more dauntingly, try to type out all the lyrics in Hunted. I won’t share my full transcription because it’s full of question marks and riddled with inaccuracies, but I’ll share some excerpts along the way.

Album opener “Above the Water” is all about fuzz, riffs, and solos. It sets the tone for a slightly more aggressive album than we are used to but is thankfully still recognizable. I caught a somewhat strange lyrical passage that I was sure I misheard, but the more I listen, it seems to confirm:

There in the darkness
I felt it was too late
I saw my father swept away
Just like my lover
Who slipped beneath the sheets
Unto the water rippling

I’m still not quite sure what to do with that, but I noticed that it confirms a continuing theme of watching death drift away into a current that appears often on both albums. Also, water as a destructive/cleansing force makes a recurrence.

“Candlelight” gives us our first taste of some evil phlegmy growls. While there were sparse harsh vocals on Absolution, it really adds some nice diversity on most of the songs on Hunted. For this song in particular, the harsh vocals create a beautiful contrast for the explosive soaring conclusion. Speaking of contrast, the album is full of opposition between light and dark, sometimes confirming that the unknownness of darkness is preferable to what light ultimately reveals.

Fears given life
By a flickering light

So reveal the darkened figure
Eyes adjust to the flame
Creeping like those boney fingers
Stretching into the sky

The boney fingers line instantly reminded me of the album cover, with wizard-bro reaching out and leading his demonic force. I’m sure there is an obvious metaphor running across this album, but I almost prefer to just speculate on what that is so it can retain some element of fantasy.

“Three Gates” opens with a speedy chugging riff that has been stuck in my mind for days. The urgent pace is captivating, and the opening line sets the scene:

I awake in a perfect hell

And the song concludes with:

The choice is easy
Awaken from my sleep
Or wash away my ashes in the sea

In every song on Hunted (and many on Absolution), there is at least one mention of light/darkness, water/sea, dreams, or death, and often times a mix off all of them. Though I can’t speak to authorial intent, the consistency in lyrics, haunting topics, and especially the grandiose delivery all combine to form some kind of fantastical reality. One of the main appeals for me is that it feels like a work of fiction, yet reveals just glimpses of plot. It’s a world to get immersed in, but Khemmis only gives us a few blurry snapshots of the imagery. The cathartic vocals and mysterious lyrics leave us wanting more in the best possible way.

“Beyond the Door” is yet another excellent dark and heavy song that continues with these motifs (being unable to do anything about a horror that you can barely see), but let’s skip ahead to the s/t track “Hunted.” First of all, Khemmis knows how to end things. The end of every song is a triumph, and so far, the closing acts on both albums have been earth-shatteringly beautiful. Take note, writers of Lost, Dexter, etc. Lyrically, I also found it interesting that it ends in direct opposition to Absolution:

I see him, He comes forth, From darkness, He takes form
I see him he is I, I am cursed, and I am dead. I am Dead.

Whereas “Bereaved” (possibly my favorite song of 2015) ends with:

And I wasn’t dead
No, I still had life

Does this spell the end of this theme? Either way, I hope they keep going with this surreal feeling they so expertly imbue. Knowing “Bereaved” comes from a personal story about maybe a little too much fun with psychedelics might take some air out of my conspiracy theory, but it’s an interesting little easter egg, nonetheless.

khemmis_dsc3247-photo-by-travis-heacockI didn’t really talk about the music all that much, partially because I assume with their previous critical success, this album will be reviewed backward and forwards for the next few days/weeks, but here are just a few notes. It’s GOOD DOOM! Not enough? Fine.

The production has a nice warm crackle that I love throughout. The solos are a throwback to some old school metal but are certainly not stale. Some of my favorite parts are when they expand beyond doom and fuzz, showing they can do more than just perfect one monoculture of a sound (see about 10:00 in “Hunted” for an example). THE RIFFS! They got stuck in my head almost immediately. It’s just all so good good good.

So did Hunted live up to the insane expectations? I’d say definitely, but maybe it also brought them back down to earth a little bit, now that we are expecting greatness.

4.5 out of 5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell


Pre-order the digital album on bandcamp, and check out the awesome physical media formats at 20 Buck Spin.

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Published on: October 10, 2016

Filled Under: New Stuff, Reviews

Views: 1461

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  • Elegant Gazing Globe

    I want to like this but I just cant get past the fuzz guitar tone

    • Joaquin Stick

      That may be a slight hurdle lol.

  • Leif Bearikson

    I couldn’t get into their debut, but I’ve dug the tracks I’ve heard from Hunted. Perhaps it’s time to revisit

  • Liking those vocals, Mr. Stick.

  • W.

    I enjoyed the way that you wove a lyrical analysis into this review, you sly dog.

    • Joaquin Stick

      I was hoping to find a demonic underworld fantasy story hidden within the lyrics, and was slightly disappointed. But I ended up noticing some other interesting things to point out, so I guess it worked out in the long run.

    • Señor Jefe El Rosa

      I think well executed Doom deserves the lyrical analysis. When done properly its not all goatheads and candles.

  • Eliza

    I like Khemmis, so I’m glad to hear their latest album delivers. Not that I was expecting it wouldn’t, but still.

    • Joaquin Stick

      Oddly enough, the first draft of my review was only one sentence “I like Khemmis, and their latest album delivers. Not that I was expecting it wouldn’t, but still.”

      But the overlords here told me I had to write more.

      • Eliza

        That definitely was a good thing since the review was very enjoyable to read.

  • Señor Jefe El Rosa

    I dig their first album, but only recently got into it after this album was announced. I really like the aesthetic of the band, the artwork combined with their sound is flawless. I look forward to spinning this.

    • I’ve never listened to them yet, but yeah, that last year cover art didn’t passed away from my elf eyes.

      • Señor Jefe El Rosa

        It’s on spotify, if you get the chance

        • Today’s been rough here. But I will add it to my list on my #LinkNotebook, Jefe!

          • Señor Jefe El Rosa

            Sorry to hear that man :/

  • Waynecro

    Excellent review, Mr. Stick! The songs I’ve heard so far mostly hold my interest, which is something a lot of stoner/doom songs fail to do. I may have to listen to the whole album.

    • Abradolf Lincler

      posted this on FB, but i thought you might get a kick out of it. burst a blood vessel in my tricep the other day

      • Waynecro

        Holy shit, man. That sucks! How did you do that?

        • Abradolf Lincler

          lol no idea man. had some pain inthe top head of my tricep i thought was just DOMS until i noticed it last night. it just looks like a really nasty bruise but the pain was further up

          • Waynecro

            Goddamn. That’s pretty gnarly. It’s surprising that you didn’t feel it the instant it happened. You’d think there would have been some immediate pain or something. Thank goodness you didn’t tear a muscle or something.

          • Abradolf Lincler

            no telling man, ive been having some real rage moments before and during workouts lately. provably too much adrenaline to notice it. i took sat and sunday off to recover. and i think ill do legs today just to keep from putting strain on it

          • Waynecro

            Rage and adrenaline can definitely make you miss an injury during a workout, but I’m still surprised you didn’t notice that shit when it happened, haha. I hope you recover quickly. I still feel like crap, so I think I’ll cut cardio for a couple days.

          • Abradolf Lincler

            Yeah I actually need to up my cardio game

          • Waynecro

            Cardio is a necessary evil, but I think I need to knock it off for a few days to allow some recovery. Because of squatting three days a week and doing uphill sprints six days a week, my legs are always wrecked.

          • Abradolf Lincler

            thats a lot of squats bro!

          • Waynecro

            It really is a lot of volume–especially because I’m doing five sets of 20 every session. Tuesday I do standard squats, Thursday I use occlusion bands, and Saturday I do sumo squats. I’m using only 45 percent to 55 percent of my 1RM, but it’s still taxing as shit. I can barely walk up the stairs afterward.

          • Abradolf Lincler

            right on, when it comes to squats i have to be able to press the bar so im easily doing 50% of 1 rm for higger reps. kinda have to. but as a workaround, doing one leg squats with 2 50lb+ dumbbells kinda ups the ante a little. ive also seen some real strange squat variations lately that id like to try out. see if i cant work the groin and inner leg a little more

          • Waynecro

            Whatever works, man. Before I got a squat rack, I wore an 80-pound weighted vest and held two 52.5-pound dumbbells for squats. One cool thing about high-rep squats is that it’s simultaneously cardio and resistance training. And I definitely feel the sumo squats in my inner leg and groin. Sometimes I can feel the DOMS in my nuts, haha.

          • Abradolf Lincler

            i keep thinking that getting a cage for squats and whatnot will be my next big purchase but so long as i can get back up to being able to clean and press well over 200 it shouldnt be an immediate need. before a rack i feel like my lats are needing the most love

          • Waynecro

            I’d like to get a full cage one of these days. Right now I have the Valor Fitness BD-9 Power Squat Stand, which consists of two independent stands. It’s very affordable and easy to configure for small spaces.

          • Abradolf Lincler

            ill have to check into that, even though space is no longer my issue. money is

          • Waynecro

            I think the BD-9 is less than $180 on Amazon, which is probably about one-third the cost of a decent power cage. My issue has always been a lack of space.

  • Man, I love when people uses lyrics as another way to approach a record. This was a perfect reading, and it just opened a new way to interpret this band. I will take these words for my upcoming first listening 😀

    Grrrreat work, Joaquín!

    • Joaquin Stick

      Thanks Link! I think this one and Spirit Adrift are going to fight it out in my AOTY list for best doom.

      • Ayyy, listened Spirit Adrift again last week. It gets more love with the repeats 😀

  • Damage_Inc89

    Kickass review. Love that you delved into the lyrics/artwork, too. Been on MS for a while now, but finally checking out the Toilet, and I’m loving it!

    • J.R.™

      Welcome to the Toilet!

    • Welcome brah!

    • Joaquin Stick

      Much appreciated! Stick around for less trashy spam posts and more articles that the authors actually put time into!

    • Come to the Toilet for the cat memes. Stay for the cat memes. (I have no cat memes at this time.)

    • Señor Jefe El Rosa

      Welcome to the porcelain, my friend. The water is nice, stay a while.

    • GoatForest

      I’m thinking og making the switch , myself.

      • Damage_Inc89

        I’m still flipping back and forth. It’s like going outside in the hot summer heat and enjoying the fact that it’s summer, but not enjoying the constant discomfort (MS), then you go to a lake/pool/etc and take a refreshing dunk in the waters (of the toilet).

  • InfinityOfThoughts

    Very nice! I liked their last album and I’ve been digging the new songs so far.

  • Maik Beninton™

    From that cover I expected some Cirith Ungol worship, not much of a doom record.

    But yeah, I like this a lot.

  • “sometimes confirming that the unknownness of darkness is preferable to what light ultimately reveals.”

    OoooooOOOoOoOOOooOOOOOOooooooO. Snap.

    • Joaquin Stick

      Sometimes I can write a sentence or two lol.

  • This isn’t something I would normally like but man, this is really hitting the spot right now. Thanks, Terlet!

  • PostBlackenedWhaleGaze

    Fun fact you beer drinkers out there, one of the dudes in Khemmis is the brewer over at Trve Brewing in Denver.

    Can’t wait for this to come out, pre-ordered mine some time ago.