Breaking out of Denver can be tough for local bands, but the metal quartet Khemmis has been doing just that.
Late February, the group — which has garnered national acclaim touring with the likes of Enslaved, the Black Dahlia Murder and Pig Destroyer — announced it would be signing with one of the longest-running and most acclaimed independent metal labels, Nuclear Blast, joining an impressive roster of bands including Nightwish, Slayer, Sabaton, Blind Guardian, In Flames, Lamb of God and Dimmu Borgir.
“All of it is pretty unreal,” says Khemmis singer and guitarist Ben Hutcherson. “We certainly didn’t expect any of this.”
Khemmis’s members met Monty Carner, head of A&R at Nuclear Blast, when they were headlining a show at the Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn. They partnered together for the release of Khemmis’s most recent album, Desolation — a “trial marriage,” as Hutcherson puts it.
Ultimately, Nuclear Blast decided to sign Khemmis, and the act left its previous label, 20 Buck Spin, with hopes of gaining greater national attention and more opportunities — although, notes Hutcherson, “It's not that we expect there to be a drastic change overnight."
Khemmis’s success has coincided with the Denver metal scene’s growth over the years — which, Hutcherson adds, has benefited from relative isolation.
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“One of the fortuitous things,” he says, “is that until recently, a lot of people weren't paying attention, which meant that everybody was free to do whatever they were going to do. But you had to do it in the most authentic and the most compelling and powerful way you possibly could.”
In that isolation, bands were able to cultivate their sound — and the scene. Hutcherson points to Spectral Voice, Of Feather and Bone, Dreadnought and Wayfarer, explaining, “We’re all friends, and we all hold ourselves to very high standards in terms of what we write and what we say and how we perform.”
In addition to the new label, Khemmis is also working on a collaborative album put together by Magnetic Eye Records, re-creating Alice in Chains' Dirt album in its entirety. After that, the band will perform at the Domination Festival in Mexico City, with Alice Cooper, the Black Dahlia Murder, Trivium and Lamb of God.
Khemmis is also gearing up for European and North American tours, and will start work on its fourth album, which will be the band's Nuclear Blast debut.