One look at Khonsu’s Facebook page tells you a lot about what the band is likely to sound like, though nothing prepares you for the immense blockbuster compositions imagined and constructed by S Gronbech whose band this basically is, but backed up by the considerable vocal talents of Thebon (Keep Of Kalessin). Notably Gronbech is the brother of one Obsidian Claw, whose collaboration was realised as Keep Of Kalessin’s “Reclaim” EP from 2003. However don’t be drooling at the prospect of an album like said EP or Keep Of Kalessin’s recent material, this is a far more ambitious and dark album, contained within seven monumentally epic songs that transcend what you would consider as experimental or progressive by definition.
Every single tune on here offers something different to the listener making reviewing this that more difficult when you have such ingenuity on display. Anyway Khonsu as a name is the falcon headed moon god in Egyptology and that majestic bird stands some way to demonstrate the menacing foreboding and dark splendour this album has to offer. Beginning with electronics “In Otherness” bursts into life with an industrial tinge riff and beat with the keyboards remaining in the background. The tangential riff shift is wondrous, starting a riff beat that is astoundingly absorbing. At nine minutes plus the song twists, contorts and warps its way around piano elements that had me scribbling Arcturus down as a reference. The drum work has a mechanical bulldozing beating about them as Thebon’s throaty bellow is so distinguishable. Half way through and the song changes again with more piano and a clean croaky vocal narration right before the bruising bass drums come in before finishing with acoustic guitar and that brilliant riff from the start.
Now that is just track one, and we have another six just like it, with “The Host” being used as a taster song for upcoming release. The tune begins very like Dimmu or Emperor with a synth driven melody and slower pace. The drone vocal line is testament to Thebon’s abilities as an extreme metal singer, with what sound like Mongolian throat singing elements. Testing the boundaries is an understatement for this release as the tune transforms to drug fuelled trippy insanity. The tune dips into funeral like pace and melody before picking up the pace to a more typical black metal fury after the croaky groan vocal lines. Thebon’s clean vocals are exemplary as well and perfectly positioned after the blackened tumult.
The experimentalism reminds me of Solefald’s eclectic and perplexing album “Neonism” with songs seemingly transposing themselves from one style to another without any warning, but skilfully done so as to maintain momentum and flow. The massive “Inhuman States” starts with a more harsh blackened riff and quick bass drums and harsher throat shredding, as the tune enters blast phase reminding of Aborym or even Anaal Nathrakh’s own brand of feral animosity. The tune boasts some choral vocals as well in the background, creating a mystical ethereal atmosphere, though the song is resolutely aggressive overall especially during the industrialised hyper blast, which eventually fades to piano and synth.
In places I was thinking about Devin’s bewildering methodology by bamboozling the listener with off the wall guitar work, vocal styling and compositional arrangements especially on “The Malady”. The album is packed with massively interesting and epic songs, but none more so than the 14 minute marathon of “Va Shia (Into The Spectral Sphere)”. This expansive song begins with an atmospheric ambience accompanied by acoustic guitar that has a 70s vibe to it. The radio voice is backed by synths and I suppose an Opeth texture is detected. After about three minutes electric guitar filters in that has a modernistic slam style to it momentarily, as the vocals shift to a macho thrash bark. Again the tune is balanced with harsh rasping vocals and clean vocals after a lone bass line and low volume spoken vocal section. As the song progresses a side way surge is taken into a blast that does have elements of Keep Of Kalessin here. This album is certain to feature very highly on progressive black metaller lists worldwide, but even if the undercurrent is predominantly blackened industrial darkness the musicianship is first class, with surgically precise riffing and leads that could also appeal to progressive death metallers that like bands such as Septic Flesh, The Project Hate, Xerath but have a very open mind.
(9/10 Martin Harris)