Friday 4 January 2019

Khaos Labyrinth - The Cold Universe (2019)

Country: Russia
Style: Melodic Black Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 1 Jan 2019
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Metal Archives

Metal had a good year in 2018, with a lot of bands successfully blurring the different styles and creating new and vibrant sounds. Already, it looks like having a good year in 2019 too, with death metal taking the lead through the Phlebotomized and Soilwork albums, which together show how versatile death metal has become. Enter the Russian band Khaos Labyrinth to highlight how black metal doesn't have to make wild leaps to genres like gospel and bluegrass to move its cause forward. They look inward rather than outward but they still innovate.

The opening of The Great Deicide felt like old school thrash but with the traditional black metal bedrock added behind it. As it grew, it added in progressive elements, gorgeous transitions and some soaring solo guitar, with these elements often overlaid. Crucially, it all plays well together. Through the Ruins adds nu metal shouts as a sort of haka before leaping into the black. Cosmic Alchemy blisters until its first interlude, which adds an oriental flavour, then explored some fascinating territory for a while until blistering again to its ending. Depths without Stellar Light has a progressive Voivod feel to it with an absolutely fantastic stop a minute and change in.

What I think I like most about this album is how well this band layer their sounds. That came to mind during the intro, but became extra clear as the ending of Cosmic Alchemy gave way to the beginning of Cold. The guitarwork behind the verses of Cold underlined it in red ink because it's delightful and it's buried just deep enough below the hyperspeed surface to make us dive in to explore.

It sometimes seems really weird to acknowledge that Khaos Labyrinth is a trio, albeit one using an additional session drummer for this album. I'm guessing that much of this is because Skvld, who wrote two thirds of the material, doesn't only handle bass and vocals but also keyboards and samples. That could be translated into him taking some solid black metal, already interesting because of the solo work from Beorn, and then rendering it even more interesting.

Not everything's of the same quality here and the first half is generally superior to the second half, but the album rarely slips into the background. Each time it does, it promptly reenforces itself again with something special before we notice and we find ourselves back on board. Often, but certainly not always, this is due to one of the many quiet interludes within tracks, which are agreeably varied; they're there for us to take a breath but sometimes they take it away instead. Sometimes it's a transition or a temporary change in vocal style. Occasionally, it's something really odd like a scratchy effect towards the end of Rest in Sand, the longest, last and most untypical song on the album.

Short version of this review: there's lots here to catch the attention!

Khaos Labyrinth are certainly finding their style. They used to be Das ist Unrein, then Nebiroth, but they've been Khaos Labyrinth since 2011 and this is their third full length album with hopefully many more to come.

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