I guess folks review metal albums for all sorts of reasons. Me? I do it principally because it keeps my brain ticking over when I’m not being mentally battered at work, and I like writing about things. I also started doing it some years ago because I wanted to be exposed to music that I wouldn’t ordinarily get to listen to. There are some albums – and some times – when this latter reason gets completely and utterly validated.
“Hunted” is one of those albums. From the first strains of “Above the Water”, they had me. The mournful guitar melody, the thick, fuzz-laden guitar tone and the clean, true heavy metal vocals. It got better from there, too. The guitar solos, tastefully playing over each other and intertwining with the emotional riffing somehow managed to bring to mind both the likes of Electric Wizard and Thin Lizzy at the same time. How did they do that? Magic. Pure Magic.
“Candlelight” comes next, following a burst of shrieking feedback. Classic heavy metal is channelled through the medium of doom metal, and while the tempo never exceeds what we may call “lurching”, it sounds utterly majestic, like some alternative dimension where Cirith Ungol were being played at 33 1/3 rpm and given a better singer. At 6:37, “Three Gates” is the fast-paced track of the five here, opening with an actual gallop, a ferocious stomper with war-like drumming and hoarse, growled vocals. It later morphs into a soaring chorus, with some excellent guitar work accompanying the vocal melodies, before crashing back into the riffing once more.
“Beyond the Door” is perhaps the most traditionally doom metal of all the tracks here, in that peculiar brand of doom that the Americans seem to have a great handle on, bringing to mind bands like Pale Divine. I really can’t say enough good things about the juxtaposition between the fuzzed-out riffage, and the classic heavy metal tones of the guitar tones. This isn’t to say that the bass work or drumming are bad; far from it. They’re both excellent in their own work, and manage to take the vintage sounds of heavy metal and somehow transport into it into the here and now.
The epic “Hunted” finishes off the album, weighing in at a mighty 13:31, and it’s a fitting closer for the platter. It’s sprawling, weighty, and yet somehow never manages to lose the listener, despite churning through a veritable A-Z of infectious riffing. The initial gallop of the verse is apparently designed to make the head nod in appreciation, thus is the power of the writing.
…and so it comes to an end. Five songs all in all, most weighing in between the seven and nine minute mark. I’ve listened to this album every day on my commute to and from work for about the last two weeks, and show very little sign of becoming tired of it. It’s one of those albums – the kind that remind me why I want to keep reviewing heavy metal. Thank you Khemmis – this is a classic. It’s the best album of the year for me.
(9/10 Chris Davison)