Khemmis, which sits on the throne of Colorado's metal resurgence, has released its latest album, Desolation, a six-song exercise in anthemic power metal that offers epic meditations on existential quandaries. It takes the listener on a deeply personal journey from suicidal fantasy through grief, mourning and, ultimately, redemption — a Joseph Campbell-inspired trip into the psyche, loaded with Jungian archetypes and symbolism.
Iron Maiden fans will find a lot to enjoy in the Denver doom band's latest effort, which boasts wide-open vocals pitted against occasional flirtations with death-metal incoherence. The songs mix Tolkien-style myth-building — if Mordor was the pit of despair burning within all humans — with rage, heavy distorted guitars and a battle-ram rhythm section.
Mile High metal acts like Primitive Man have shifted toward alienating, soul-crushing noise music reflecting on the horror of the times, but Khemmis has continued to open its arms to a wider audience, with an accessible brand of metal that is apocalyptic yet pleasurable and ripe with commercial appeal.
While over-the-top songs like “Seer” might make fans wonder when Khemmis: The Musical will drop (and it would probably not be much different than a power-metal version of Pippin), they also offer a sound as wildly beautiful and harrowing as a burning forest.
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The record is filled with all sorts of metal tropes: heresy, burning skies, salvation, ashes, graves, thorns, wolves, snakes and gods — all on-the-nose stuff of the genre.
There’s plenty to head-bang to on Desolation, and perhaps even more to daydream to — and it’s in that mix of brutal metal and doomsday storytelling coupled with a deeply personal quest toward healing that the act defends its reign over Colorado's metal scene.