Review Summary: Mind-bending, progressive, dissonant, and utterly unique, "Orchard" is evolution at its finest.Kehlvin
have always been one of those rare atmospheric sludge acts that actually make a conscious effort to separate themselves from their legions of peers. Their 2007 debut, The Mountain Daylight Time
, was an immensely engrossing foray into progressive, atmospheric hardcore through the lens of a more typical post-metal band, while 2008's Holy Cancer
EP removed them even further from their climax-obsessed peers with a much greater emphasis on the hardcore aspect of their sound. If they evolved to this extent in a single year between two releases, it is to be expected that, with a span of four years between their previous output and The Orchard of Forking Paths
the strides taken away from their roots would be all that much greater. This most certainly holds true for their sophomore full-length, a 52-minute mind trip of dissonant, progressive, angry, and utterly unique hardcore. The lone track that even remotely brings to mind what they previously created on songs like "Albatross" is the titular closing track, and even this seven-minute instrumental is completely unlike anything else that aesthetically similar bands put out.
On The Orchard of Forking Paths
are not only more experimental than before. They are also angrier and heavier than anyone thought possible, as can be drawn by listening to songs like "Troy Von Balthazar," the album's would-be lead single. Its first few seconds, filled with dissonant, bass-heavy riffing, would be enough to convince anyone of the band's newfound aggression, but it does not end there. The song is not only pissed off: it is also complex, dynamic, and powerful. Vague flashes of Kehlvin
's old self shine through on this and other tracks in the form of slightly less intense reprieves, yet they no longer dominate the music, serving instead to merely complement the album's stylistic base of progressive hardcore. Every song here, with the possible exception of the title track, goes straight for the punch, leading off with brutality and completely eschewing the extensive buildups and emotional climaxes that they utilized on their two previous efforts. Some songs, such as the three-minute "Whip This," are totally unfiltered slabs of destructive hardcore, and some, like "The Metaphysical Trout," play around with more dynamics, yet even these more dynamic songs cannot be pigeonholed into a specific genre like before.
This album's strength, however, does not only lie in its increased aggression. It is also graced by impressive songwriting ability, a significant amount of very welcome experimentation, and a few very talented musicians performing it. Album highlight "Grady Robinson" might encapsulate everything so good about this release, featuring warbled post-hardcore vocals in its intro, dissonant instrumental breaks in its midsection, and a mosh-worthy, earth-shattering hardcore breakdown at its climax. As with the LP's other songs, the vocals are passionate, infuriated, and massively intense, while the guitars and bass play off each other masterfully without one ever overwhelming the other and the drums attack in a frenzied whirlwind of pounding beats, creative fills, and mind-bending time signatures.
Time and time again, bands have tried to evolve into something more unique than where they began, and time and time again, they have fallen flat on their faces trying to do so. On The Orchard of Forking Paths
, however, Kehlvin
have done what so many others have tried and failed to do. They have taken their undeniably enjoyable but slightly unoriginal style and turned it on its head, crafting something utterly unique and surprisingly compelling. It truly is unfortunate how little attention The Orchard of Forking Paths
has received, because it is, without a doubt, one of the year's most engaging and mature hardcore releases to date.