Wednesday, February 23, 2005

KEKAL - Acidity (album review)



KEKAL is back with another album called "Acidity", the album in which the band leader/vocalist/guitarist Jeff said as "the most stressful recording in the last 5 years". After 2 albums recorded without problems, now it seems the problems were back at them when they recorded this album, from the technical difficulties (computer crashed and pre-production data lost) to the other problems as well. With almost eleven months spent in the making, "Acidity" without a doubt takes the longest production time in KEKAL's recording history, so far.

To celebrate KEKAL's 10th anniversary in 2005, "Acidity", as officially said by the band, is designed to be a special reunion album with all their former members (plus their additional/live guitarist) contributed in the recording process, making KEKAL as a 5-piece band with 3 guitarists. Yes, they have 3 lead guitarists that all play solos, harmonies, and melody-rhythm interactions. Guitar takes the most dominant role here. "Acidity" is a guitar-based metal album. They also have the additional human drummer too. Gone are the machine-based drums, processed sounds and lots of synthesizers, samples, and effects as we hear in their previous album.

Musically, I can see the significant RUSH influence in "Acidity". They do not sound like a RUSH clone band and they never tried to sound like RUSH either, but they hold the same spirit as RUSH once had during their golden era. Like those Canadian grandfathers of prog-rock, KEKAL always make a big step forward in every album and they never look back. They never afraid to take a risk. They always have something new to offer, something beyond our expectations. That is the true progressive spirit! "Acidity" is still a very metal album, but you cannot tell what kind of metal it is. This is not black metal, not death metal, not even progressive metal (if progressive metal means for bands like DREAM THEATER or SYMPHONY X), not nu-metal, not metalcore, and definitely not power metal. There is a term called "avantgarde metal" to refer to metal bands that don't match in any metal sub-genre because of their broad range of influences. KEKAL now falls under "avantgarde metal" term, but this is not another sub-genre of metal as the music style can be very very different between one avantgarde metal band and another.

Compared with their previous album "1000 Thoughts of Violence" (2003), the music of "Acidity" is not miles away from that one as there are still influences from jazz, electronica, and 80's new-wave, BUT...... this one has a different approach to the songwriting and production. Almost a completely different approach. The recording is far more organic and live-oriented. It is different than the clinical/processed sound of "1000 Thoughts..." as this time the production has the power and energy of a live performance. Musically speaking, "Acidity" has more elements combined in the music, they have more metal in one side, but yet more jazz and rock elements in the other sides as well, and all those elements are mixed together into the songs that generally are not as complex as the previous album. So how could this be possible?

The answer is in the feel of the songs. "1000 Thoughts..." has a lot of violent, dark and brutal feel. If you have all the brutal and violent songs, the room for other emotions are closed because the only thing left for is anger and pain. "Acidity" is not as brutal and violent as "1000 Thoughts...", and it is not near as dark too, so the room for other emotions are still open wide. Now you get songs that are easier and pleasant to listen, but still it's hard to study and to play them (once again, it's like RUSH formula, easy to listen, hard to play). That makes "Acidity" to be richer than "1000 Thoughts of Violence" even without the plenty of synthesizers, electronic beats and effects, and if you think "the richer the better", then "Acidity" is the best you can get.

Now I go into the songs:

1. Characteristicon
This song opens by the short ambient guitar feedback drone for a few seconds before the music blasts. The chords are beyond weird, they use complex and unusual jazz chords in this psychotic "progressive black metal" song. When the vocals start to scream "yeeaaaaaaaahhhhhhh!!!!" you will know that this is KEKAL! Here, the 3 guitars are totally intense and amazing. You hear 3-guitar harmonies, amazing polyrhythmic interactions, and the blistering solos of all 3 guitarists are served very well. What an awesome heavy and intense opener! They left you with your jaw open wide and you will start to drool.

2. Strength in my Weakness
After torturing me by the crushing progressive metal on the first track, these guys are now taking care of my wounded soul and say "you have to lose your mind!". Yes, in contrast with the technical insanity of "Characteristicon", this song has a kind of strange "happy melancholia" feel. When you hear this song, you will feel both sad and happy at the same time. It is manic and depressive at the same time. It is schizophrenic. Your emotion will be altered. So be forwarned! As always, there are intriguing guitars and unusual chords here and there, and a few odd twists in the time-signatures as well, but they don't focus on those aspects! A great song with a strong emotional content.

3. Thy Neighbor's Morality
This song lasts for over 7 minutes, but you never feel that long, it feels like it's only 4 minutes because it is really really adventurous. You have everything from electronic beats, modern (almost nu-metal) riffs, fast blasting symphonic orchestral black metal, industrial beats, death metal riff, jazz interludes, well, you name all of them!!!! Another great song indeed!

4. A Dream for A Moment
Their first choice for a single. This song is rather mellow and leaning on the emotion. It is very catchy and easy-listening. I dig the cool basslines during the chorus. I think this song is the lightest and catchiest song in the entire album. Rock is the keyword. Download the mp3 at: http://www.audiostreet.net/kekal

5. Broken
Actually, this isn't a brand-new song. "Broken" is an older song originally from Jeff's solo project EXCISION, but this re-arranged & re-recorded KEKAL version is far better than the EXCISION version. I didn't like the EXCISION version, but I do like this one! The sound is superior, Jeff voice is more emotional, passionate and strong, and the guitar solos totally smokes!!!! It is a slow-paced, melodic and catchy song within an industrialized dark progressive gothic doom metal body.

6. Envy and Its Manifesto
Only one word to describe it: Weird! If you need two words, then it's "fucking weird!". They incorporate some chanting like those on the voodoo rituals (perhaps) and a semi rap-styled talking into a minimalistic downbeat trip-hop music a-la MASSIVE ATTACK with a metal distortion guitar. But that doesn't stop there! Halfway through the song there are some modern-rock clean vocals come out in harmony, and then going straight to a mid-tempo prog-metal section with a riff a-la OPETH, then a strange blastbeats part with RUSH kind of riff, then a classic-metal riff to backup the strange-sounded solo guitar. It's a weird, very avantgarde song, but it works well. You should listen it with an open mind. This song is only for the true KEKAL fans, like myself ;). Sorry for the close-minded!

7. The Way of Thinking Beyond Comprehension
Another experimental song. This song is probably the most freaked-out, schizophrenic, insane, progressive, technical, avantgarde (or whatever you might want to call it) in the entire "Acidity". This almost 9-minute song is comprised by 3 'parts'. It's like the trilogy, but not really a trilogy. First part is a brutal chaotic extreme jazz-fusion metal (or jazz-core!). On this part you can hear anything from black metal riffs, screaming vocals, clean vocals, odd-time signature math-metal, hardcore jazz riffs (what???), and all those weird chords and beats. Oh, and also the interaction between free-jazz guitar solos and a keyboard solo you will only hear on a jazz-fusion band. And then comes the second part, a nice acapella choir of 10 to 15 people, but actually only Jeff vocals get multilayered/overdubbed into 15 times something (Jeff said it's using 22 tracks for this vocal part), performing some kind of scary ritual chanting and say "think hard and think again" over and over for about 2 minutes and closed by uncontrolled screams and howls, sounds like 15 Jeffs got possessed by different evil spirits! HA!! The last part, is another 2 minutes of intense guitar solos doing in a straight metal way. That's right, 2 minutes of blistering guitar trading solos performed by 3 guitarists (Jeff, Leo, and Didy) in a JUDAS PRIEST way! Extremely intense and insane! I've never heard any metal band doing a song as crazy as KEKAL guys here. I think "Acidity" is worth buying because of this song alone!

8. Romantika Destruksi
A nice ambient instrumental guitar backed up by scary synth and ethnic percussion.

9. Blessing in Disguise
Another catchy, melodic, and emotionally-driven tune. A great epic symphonic-progressive metal song indeed. Once again, the guitar solos are extraordinary.

10. Empty Space
They close the album with this depressive and dark tune. The music is quite simple and in-your-face, but it touches your emotions at a point that it could make you cry. Very very emotional song. I can compare this song with "The Painful Experience".

Overall, "Acidity" is a damn good album. Some will say this one is far better than "1000 Thoughts of Violence". A combination of advanced musicianship and the emotional content of the songs is the strong point of "Acidity". However, there is something missing for me, I miss all the strange effects, computer beats and analogue synthesizers, as they are not using those as much here as in "1000 Thoughts of Violence". But I do like the return of the screaming guitar solos, and now even to the MAX!

Despite of the easy-listening tendency in most of the songs, "Acidity" doesn't always mean to entertain us in the first place. They have some songs that make us to think rather than to dance or to bang our head. If you look for only an entertainment, then go for something else. KEKAL creates ART with their music. So you have to see their music as a piece of art to appreciate it, not something that can entertain you in the first place.

Rating: 95/100

Band Website:
http://www.kekal.cjb.net

Label Websites:
http://www.thtproductions.com
http://www.fear-dark.com

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