Originating in the city of Denver, Colorado, nestled between the Rocky Mountains and the South Platte River, Khemmis are a relative newcomer to the US doom metal scene, having formed in 2012 and having since put out only two studio albums so far. However, they have already received great praise, with their second album 'Hunted' being ranked 11th on Rolling Stone's 20 best metal albums of 2016 and 1st on Decibel Magazine's top 40 albums of 2016. 'Hunted' was also one of my personal favourite albums of recent years and was the album that first drew my attention to the band. So, having knocked it out of the park with 'Hunted', could Khemmis come back with another album of similar calibre and avoid the dreaded 'third album' syndrome?
First track, 'Bloodletting', is already probably my favourite song of 2018, having listened to it countless times since it was first made available to stream online. 'Bloodletting' goes to show that despite being ostensibly a doom metal band, you don't have to be the heaviest, play the slowest or have all your tracks be at least 15 minutes long – you just need to write really great songs, and that's where Khemmis excel. Bloodletting is one of the best damn heavy metal tracks I have heard in a while. That riff that kicks in at 4 minutes and 40 seconds is absolutely sublime.
After an opener like that, 'Isolation' already has big shoes to fill, but fills them well with strong vocals and great lead guitar work. A short but sweet mid-paced song.
'Flesh to Nothing' is a heavy hitter with lumbering guitars, soaring vocals, and crashing drums, a hefty slice of modern doom metal. “The Seer' keeps the good form going with more great songwriting.
'Maw of Time' stomps into our ears and hits us with seven minutes of crunching guitars and pounding drums, all deliciously layered on top of perfectly juxtaposed clean and growled vocals. Easily the heaviest song on 'Desolation', this one really marks Khemmis's territory, letting everyone know that they're one of the biggest dogs in the park.
Album closer 'From Ruin' is all a dark and melancholic hymn, emotional and laced with pain and past suffering, a gripping and worthy finisher to this stunner of a record.
Given the quality of the performance on show here, I would not be surprised in the slightest if Khemmis end up with yet another album high up in many 'best of' lists when the year is done and dusted. With both 'Hunted' and 'Absolution' to their name, plus their excellent but lesser-known debut album 'Absolution', Khemmis are now becoming a greatly respected band with a loyal fanbase, and it will be interesting to see if they can keep up this same level of quality with their next effort. 'Desolation' is absolutely vital, a truly great album from a band that has already delivered so much in such a short time yet also shows great promise for the future.