When their 2016 sophomore album Hunted was named “Album of the Year” by Decibel Magazine, it did more than count as a win for Denver doom lords Khemmis. It counted as a victory for the entire Mile High metal scene, as the honorable nod shined a light so bright on Khemmis that any band close to them also received notice. Even the venerable Vice outlet Noisey ended up doing a whole piece on Denver’s doom scene.
But more than even that, Hunted rekindled an excitement for brainy, almost studious metal that coupled Maiden-like riffage with academic precision and a willingness to blend intelligent, story-driven lyrics with loud and heavy.
For their third album Desolation, on 20 Buck Spin, Khemmis take their freshman and sophomore studies and elevate them to an upper-level class dissertation on the evolution of modern metal.
With the “stadium-sized” opening notes of “Bloodletting,” they acknowledge the roots of their genre — the sludgy stoner rock, and early metal that gave them their foundation — but they quickly take that foundation and build multiple stories upon stories to form their own cathedral of sound.
Working for the third time with Dave Otero at Flatline Audio in Denver, the arrangements on their third album are spectacularly produced, without ever sounding over-done — there’s breathing room for Phil Pendergast’s soulful vocals, space for he and fellow guitarist Ben Hutcherson’s insane fretwork and the bottom-end of the rhythm section never gets muddy, even when trouncing through the record’s sludgiest of tracks.
Desolation takes the Khemmis hallmark of expansive, smart metal and continues to aggrandize their entire genre through deeply written and carefully arranged metal that is as cathartic as it is soulful.