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To simply call Khemmis Doom Metal would be a severe understatement. The quartet from Denver, Colorado have carved a special home for themselves within Extreme Metal with technical virtuosity, groove-heavy riffs and extremely catchy melodic vocal delivery. Their critically acclaimed 2016 release, Hunted,  was as ground-breaking as it was masterful, and was one of the few albums I’ve given multiple listens to in succession while discovering something entirely new every time. Their latest offering, Desolation,  finds the band doubling-down on their unique ability to strap their fans into an emotional upheaval while weaving cavernous riffs into infectious vocal peaks, meanwhile never losing grasp of their unrivaled musicianship.

As a band with a multitude of educational accomplishments off-the-stage, Khemmis have kept their alter-egos, painstakingly intact. With both band founders, guitarists/vocalists, Phil Pendergast and Ben Hutcherson creating the band while rigorously working on their PhD’s, drummer, Zach Coleman heading a microbrewery, while bassist, Daniel Beiers running small businesses while also skilled as a structural engineer. Taking time out of their busy lives to create a life of music is no easy feat and even more challenging to hit the road.

Khemmis’ West Coast Desolation tour took place in Portland’s Doug Fir Lounge, which for the most part, rarely hosts Metal music. By the time Portland’s own black metal act, Drouth, took the stage, the crowd stood stunned and captivated by the abrasive onslaught, barely moving a muscle in the thick cloud of smoke that swallowed all light. Abrasive and violent, the Black Metal quartet were out promoting their latest release, Knives, Laybrinths, Mirrors. As time went on, the walls seemed to expand and contract as UN, the menacing Aetherical Doom act out of Seattle, WA, forged an impenetrable wall of anguish that seemed to emanate from the shadows itself. In the darkness, every body was unmoving, not for lack of enthusiasm, but rather a place of collective catharsis. Their newfound disciples swayed side-to-side in a trance to the ominous crucible from the Porlandian’s latest release, Sentiment.

With their logo on a banner overhead, the only identifying factor that a metal show was even going down at the humble downstairs venue, the prolific Doom-inspired quartet, Khemmis, sliced through the silence with the first of many momentous riffs with the intro to “Above the Water,” the first track off their celebrated album, Hunted. Pendergast stalked the stage like an unchained animal occasionally roaring right into the face of his closest prey while guitarist/vocalist, Hutcherson added a layer of aggression and fire to his counterpart’s melodies. The dual guitarists created a fusion of impressive melodies with technical dexterity on epics “Bloodletting” and “Isolation,” from their latest release, Desolation, with both bassist, Daniel Beiers and drummer, Zach Coleman laying the foundation for the captivating groundwork throughout the night.

Khemmis’ short but monumental West Coast Desolation Tour may have come to rest but their music and tenacity will keep them ablaze even on the darkest nights. Desolation is an exploration of emotion made sound, a masterfully crafted epic worthy of more than a single journey.

Raul Soria Jr.

Photojournalist - Portland

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