Album Review: Deceiver by Khemmis (Nuclear Blast Records)

Doomed heavy metal masters, Khemmis are back with their fourth full length studio album, Deceiver, arriving via Nuclear Blast Records on the 19th of November 2021.

Khemmis really are one of the most talented bands metal has in it’s arsenal. To say I loved their previous full length, Desolation , would be a massive understatement. Despite it being near 3 years old, it is easily still one of my absolute favourite records, not just of this era, of all time. Their EP, Doomed Heavy Metal, bridged a bit of a gap while waiting for Deceiver and even that was a phenomenal release.  It seems they have the Midas touch, finding the perfect balance between clean, thought provoking emotion and dark, soul crushing heaviness. Their song writing talent is on another level. I genuinely think these guys are the best we have right now and we have a ton of great talent in metal.

So, with my love of the band declared, of course I am truly excited to hear this latest release from the Colorado based 3 piece of Phil Pendergast (vocals and guitars), Ben Hutcherson (guitars and vocals) and Zach Coleman (drums). Nearly three years in the making, Deceiver brings six new tracks full of depth, feeling and darkness.

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Speaking about the new album, Deceiver, vocalist and guitarist Phil Pendergast states: “Thematically, all of the songs are about the many ways that we are tricked into believing these stories about ourselves–that we are broken, that we are not good enough, that our genetics determine our fate. This title is the label that we put on our minds as a force that tricks us into believing these stories. The record’s lyrical trajectory is similar to Dante’s descent into an Inferno of his own making. It is our darkest album to date.”

Guitarist and vocalist, Ben Hutcherson adds: “While our minds and hearts are responsible for this kind of deception, so too is the world around us. There is this dialectic between the two that produces suffering. Anyone who has struggled with mental health or suffered any sort of trauma will tell you that there were times that the mind is its own beast that has to be wrangled. In that sense, we become the deceivers ourselves; we believe we deserve to be the vessel for this pain and this suffering that is being inflicted on us both externally and internally.”

“With a title that reflects the internal struggles that many of us battle in our daily lives, Deceiver is a ferociously honest and raw piece of musical artistry”

From the opening thoughtful melody of Avernal Gate to the stomping riff that it leads into., it is hard to not just become hypnotised by the strength and passion of the sounds presented. The crisp, mournful vocal passages are beautiful, becoming another wonderful and perfectly tuned instrument in the mix. The harmonised vocal passages are sublime, the drums exude power and the transitions into darker, guttural metal toys with you intensely. This band are exceptionally gifted in their musicianship but also their intelligence and insight to be able to create music that affects you so emotionally.

House of Cadmus, one of the singles, is a track I have already played to death but it is so good, I genuinely felt a little rise of joy when it started. The deeper, sombre intro leads into darker vocals with more of that Khemmis harmonising that is so very special. The doom tones shine through in spades in the crunch of drums and deep grooving riffs. The chorus fills you up and the emotion screaming out from the guitar solos. As amazing as Khemmis have been in albums before Deceiver, the vocals really seem to have improved again. Whether the dark, guttural edge or the mesmerising cleans, they sound insane and House of Cadmus really shines a spotlight on the vocals.

Living Pyre, another single, continues on the Khemmis pattern of just being incredible. A real headbanging groove hits in the intro and it stays pretty consistent for a large part of the song, hitting you with the stomping rhythm and hypnotic vocals. Until about half way through when the song erupts into a second phase. Starting with a little acoustic melody, you lower your energy and they switch on you exploding into life with some of their heaviest riffs and darkest vocals. The fact they then choose to harmonise between these growls and cleans just elevates everything even further.

Shroud of Lethe, an 8 and half minute adventure really does show off the very best of Khemmis. The supreme guitars in the intro drop off to a deeper, morose tone with tapping drums. As the thought provoking scene gets set by vocal harmony and the occasional cymbal crash, you really do find yourself getting lost in the music. The world drops away and it’s just you and the song and it’s perfect. Oh and I am only 2 minutes in. Before I know it though the song is over and I can’t believe 8 minutes passed. The guitar solos, the drums the vocals – its just hypnotic, a term I am definitely overusing but it just feels like the right word. I didn’t want it to end but end it did and the only good thing about that is there are more songs to listen to.

Starting with the penultimate track, Obsidian Crown. And what a start this song gets off too. Being a little short for Khemmis (less than 6 minutes), it gets straight to the point with a wonderful guitar intro. The verses hit hard with punchy riffs and intense drums while we get a brilliant mix of clean, passionate vocals and the odd roared guttural. I love the energised drums in particular here where we have more than enough heaviness to find yourself headbanging furiously and more than enough deep melody to find yourself swaying, lost in the sounds.

And so Deceiver comes to an end with the track The Astral Road and as is now expected of Khemmis, it is phenomenal. A slow building melodic intro turns into an emotionally charged solo and from that it evolves again into a fast paced, headbanger of a track. The vocals are perfect building up and up until it descends into a chorus that feels so massive. I adore the lyric “There’s nothing waiting for us now, I’m broken but unashamed”. That’s powerful. The drum fill that leads from the chorus into the next phase is inspired, the solo that joins it is magical – every single note, every single second belongs and combines to make a song that may just be perfection.

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And that is what Deceiver is. Perfection. I wouldn’t and couldn’t change a note. The pacing is perfect, the passion that pours out of every second of every single song really does connect with the listener in a magical way. It is so easy to get lost in every single song here becoming completely unaware of your surroundings or passing time. Instead just close your eyes, bang your head and let the music wash over you. I was trying to think of favourite tracks on the album and probably settled on House of Cadmus and The Astral Road but I could also easily just say all of them. I didn’t honestly think Khemmis would be able to better Desolation to me, no matter what they did, but somehow this has achieved the impossible. It has surpassed perfection.

This amazing piece of art is available to preorder now from this link.

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Author

  • Brendan Fisher

    Owner/Editor/Writer/YouTuber - Heavy Metal and reading, two things I have always loved so they are the two areas you will find most of my reviews. Post apocalyptic is my jam and I always have a book on the go and have for decades now. From a metal perspective, age has softened my inadequacies and I now operate with an open mind, loving many bands from many sub genres but having a particular admiration for the UK underground scene. In my other time, when not focused on Dad duties and work, I try to support the craft beer movement by drinking as much of it as I can and you will also find me out on the streets, walking. I love walking, I love exploring new places and snapping nature photos as I go.

Deceiver by Khemmis (Nuclear Blast Records)
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