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Kekal - The Habit Of Fire (7/10) - Indonesia - 2007

Genre: Avantgarde Rock / Electro / Industrial Rock
Label: Open Grave Records
Playing time: 70:40
Band homepage: Kekal

Tracklist:

  1. Prelude: Worldhate Chronicle
  2. The Gathering Of Ants
  3. Isolated I
  4. Manipulator Generals (Part I Of Dictatorship)
  5. Our Urban Industry Runs Monotonously
  6. To Whom It May Concern
  7. Free Association
  8. Historicity And State Of Mind (Part II Of Dictatorship)
  9. Postlude: Saat Kemarau
  10. A Real Life To Fear About
  11. Escapism
Kekal - The Habit Of Fire
Formed in 1995, the early years of KEKAL were marked by well handled melodic Black Metal, however a decade on and six albums in, Indonesians KEKAL have evolved far beyond their initial musical ethos into something less aggressive, more progressive and far more electronic.
 
Hinted at in their 2001 release ”The Painful Experience” and expanded upon in their following two albums, KEKAL have travelled into the world of Avant-garde music with electro soundscapes backed by Rock sounding, effects driven guitars and a primarily synthesized rhythm section that hints to a band once indebted to Extreme Metal..
 
Right from the get go with the “Fake Sounds Of Progress” era LOST PROPHETS style vocal arrangement and guitars abundant in “The Gathering Ants”, I am filled with a sense that I shouldn’t be finding anything of enjoyment in “The Habit Of Fire,” yet I find it a strangely compelling album. True the Metal elements have been stripped to almost nothing bar the odd guitar solo and chugging riff, programmed double kicks and sporadic growled vocals, yet “The Habit Of Fire” demonstrates quality songwriting in the sense of coherently melding so many elements.
 
A large part of what helps the music gel is the consistent use of electronics. They aren’t just thrown in here and there; they are used solidly throughout and are given leverage by a deep production. Whilst at times they sound a little insipid in the overtly Pop “To Whom It May Concern” or painful “Postlude: Saat Kemarau” they generally get away without sounding “Industrial Metal”, the exceptions being the programmed drumming and atmosphere in “Manipulator General” and “Free Association.” A particular high point for the electronic soundscapes is their use between tracks where they take on a darker, dissonant feel that breaks with the mellower preludes into something more disconcerting.
 
KEKAL are particularly good at expressing emotion within an urban sphere, partitioning a number of the tracks into chapters, you get senses of foreboding, anger and happiness manifested by an appropriate electronic response and choice of guitar sound. A good example of this being the symphonic “Our Urban Industry Runs Monotonously” that compounds dark and cinematic electronics, industrial dissonance and soaring rock guitars completed by some Asiatic elements.
 
Whilst I still prefer the more aggressive elements of “The Habit Of Fire,” KEKAL must be applauded for their ability to pull of listenable electronic music aided by competent, versatile guitars and a vocalist who can master a variety of clean vocal ranges that trace Pop, Punk, Rock and Metal. I only wish there was a little more industrial dissonance, heaviness and a perceived sense of regional identity.
 
Surprisingly likeable and wonderfully subtle KEKAL are one of those few bands that help me see the place of electronics in Metal and Rock, another being JESU. Whilst “The Habit Of Fire” isn’t an album I would rush out to buy, people who truly appreciate experimental music within a Hard Rock frame work will find the variety and coherence a breath of fresh air and for those who like Metal just check out the riff in the first chapter of “Manipulator General,” truly old school head down shuffling feet music.
 
Its only a shame that my copy of the promo was missing the final fifteen minutes, well there’s the breaks.

(Online June 10, 2007)

Richard Williams



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