Review Summary: I think it’s on fourfa.com that Sunny Day Real Estate is what Emo kids make love to, well this should be what metal kids make love to
Khoma are (mainly):
Jan Jamte - Vocals
Johannes Persson - Guitar
Fredrik Kihlberg - Guitar/Vocals/Piano
This started out as a side project, OK I’ve got it out of the way. Yes, they can be vehicles for self indulgence, but then we also have Team Sleep, A Perfect Circle and Bright Eyes keen on bucking the musical trend. Besides, when a side project includes members of Cult Of Luna and The Perishers are you really going to write them off? Like Bright Eyes, Khoma consist of a ‘core’ set of three members, and then they work with other musicians on different songs to make it more of a collective. This approach allows the three founding members to control a general direction of the band and let the guests interpret the soundscapes to create variation.
Soundscapes is the ideal word to sum this album up. It’s a beautiful, melodic, soaring metal album that uses crunching guitars to layer foundations for mountainous choruses. It uses ambient effects to create sparseness when Jan’s haunting vocals need room to breathe and powerful drumming to drive the listener to where Khoma can make you feel comfortable before the band lurch towards a breakdown.
These dynamics should be familiar to anyone who’s listened to Cult of Luna, Deftones, Isis and maybe even Red Sparowes. The main difference is that there are no screamed vocals. This only enhances the bands musicianship because to create the same sense of variety in an album or even a song they have to work so much harder. In fact, whilst the music is varied in terms of time sigs, tempos, keys etc the song structures are the most traditional part of the whole album, which represents the real reason why this had to be a side project. Almost without fail the dynamic is a loud/quiet one, it’s probably the easiest way to see the way classic rock and metal has had an impact on these guys.
It also makes Khoma a very accessible band for people who are maybe just starting to listen to heavier music, or for people who feel screaming isn’t something they can get on with. Don’t read accessible as simple though, a good example is the end of “One of Must Hang” with its rolling drums, effects, guitars and strings all flowing at an amazing rate.
If the idea of classic rock song structures with modern production values, heavier guitars, layers of effects, strings, keys, technical yet considered musicianship and truly stunning vocals doesn’t appeal because you are used to the challenge of some modern (post) metal bands then this may not be enough for you.
What I’d recommend is listening to the best track on the album “Like Coming Home” and making your mind up from it. It’s a love song, and contains some beautiful expressions of how it feels like the lyric:
“If I can spare one thought when my days are counted, please let me remember when we first kissed”
That this line is matched by Jan’s voice reaching a beautiful height only serves to make its impact all the more effective. I can’t praise Jan enough really, his voice is amazing, it’s like a warm hot velvety chocolaty drink that soothes and excites in equal measure. When it hits the bridge of Like Coming Home his range becomes apparent as he hits higher and higher notes, whilst the guitars crescendo before breaking and ebbing away to leave the effects that were the undercurrent for the whole time.
Then the song is followed by a piano and light guitar ballad that calms thing down a little more. In fact, the song arrangement on here is maybe the truest test of their abilities because this is a collection of songs rather than the more conceptual feel of their other bands. In this way, when they put the bombastic rock songs with huge choruses next to one of the slower songs you know they were preparing an album in a way that was slightly alien to them, and so by making it work it’s quite impressive.
Khoma may not be the most experimental band in metal right now, but they deserve to be in your CD collection because these songs are honest, well written and passionate pieces of music made by extraordinary musicians.