Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Kekal - Beyond The Glimpse of Dreams. 80/100.

Whilst I have always expected Kekal to deliver the unexpected in regards to their experimental visions of metal, I didn’t have a clue the debut was a black metal effort. I had heard a total of three Kekal full-lengths before this one and even the earliest of those efforts did not provide a black metal basis. However, I’ve read several suggestions which raised a point that this could be considered gothic metal, though a much heavier variation upon the usual themes of gothic metal, with rasping black metal vocals dished up on top of the material below it. There are suggestions that this record takes influence from the British band Cradle of Filth, but since I’ve never listened to any era of that bands music, I cannot agree or disagree with the comparison, so I will just have to recognise that it is there, but not concentrate of it. Given Kekal’s long history with experimentation, I suppose I should have expected a debut which differs as much as humanly possible from the last full-length piece that they released. The history of the band has been interesting to say the least, even behind the scenes where numerous problems have occurred, ultimately leading to the band being on indefinite hiatus. I’m still not clear over what the bands status is at the moment, but some suggest that Jeffray, despite claiming that he is not an active member of the band, has kept the bands status open as he may wish to return to the outfit in the distant future when he gets some motivation back.

According to Jeffray himself, rather oddly, he claims that he does not feel the need to continue making music for Kekal anymore since he is “no longer pissed off” and is “at ease with life”. Supposedly, since moving away from the troubles of inner city life and being in an all-round less stressful environment, he no longer can manage to portray his emotions in the form of Kekal. Having never heard the debut previous to this statement, I found these remarks rather strange since Kekal have never previously come across as all that aggressive anyway - until now. ‘Beyond The Glimpse of Dreams’ is an incredibly sadistic view, in comparison to the rest of Kekal’s music that I have personally heard. The vocals, the instrumentation and even the production are grittier than ever before and seem to back up the statements made by Jeffray in regards to the transformation of the band, from aggressive Malaysian pioneers, to a timid experimental band with roots in a much less extreme style, despite the ironic fact that Kekal are described as “experimental extreme metal”. It’s a shame that Kekal are only a monument to themselves and have no active members, but I can definitely see Jeffray resuming this band in the future, regardless of what his fellow creator, Leo, does in regards to the band.

Jeffray obviously seemed saddened by the lack of motivation towards writing material for the band, despite the fact that Kekal have churned out as many as three full-lengths in four years. He wanted a more aggressive style to shroud the band in angst, but it just wasn’t happening the way it used to, as it did on this hard-hitting piece which takes time to grow in stature. When ‘Rotting Youth’ pummelled its way out of the speakers and into my face, I was apprehensive at the portrayal of the old style, which apparently revolves around Christian lyrics and themes, a surprising factor of the music. It sounded far too primitive and I wasn’t accustomed to the style that Kekal were displaying but, fortunately, the sound does grow in stature and the subtle melodies which flow like underground streams begin to puncture the aggression with a lighter shade of grey, as opposed to the heart felt black metal rasps, which taint the soundscapes with a scorching red colour as the screams pierce the skin of the soundscapes, drawing blood with its violent methods. In some ways, Kekal remind me of Japanese band Sigh. As they age, they evolve drastically in sound. Though the two may never sound alike, their transition from all-out aggression to a mild mannered and timid experimental expression is astonishing. Given the extreme line-up changes Kekal have been plagued by, this might not be as surprising as it first seems.

For example, this record boasts far more participating musicians than on latter day efforts. This includes female vocalists, something I have never seen used as a method by Kekal - which is possibly where the gothic resemblances come from and the Cradle of Filth comparisons are composed. Though the female vocalists’ performances are sparse, this is just one of the underlining experimental techniques that transforms this record from a mind numbing black metal piece into a multi-dimensional extreme epic which is also bolstered by an impressive keyboard section as shown on songs like ‘Escaping Eternal Suffering’, which takes on a new and defined symphonic element, as well as multiple guitarists, which helps the record deviate, instead of sounding too repetitive as it might have without the addition of the second guitarist, as the aforementioned song, once again, displays expertly. Though ‘Rotten Youth’ shows this record as being a bit flat, the record evolves simultaneously thereafter into a beautifully vivid Christian expression of life and death, with aggressive patches that give this record a twist. Even the latter day clean vocals, which have always been distinctive and dynamic, show the overriding skills of this multi-functional band in full. Despite the rather crude opening, this record is stunning amidst the desolation of the anger.

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