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The strangest USBM album ever released - 70%

Spatupon, September 12th, 2014
Written based on this version: 2009, CD, Hells Headbangers Records

Havohej is yet another polarizing black metal band, from the United States of America. You either love the band, or you totally despise the band. In some way or another, this one man band, which has been around for more than twenty years, being an early Dimmu Borgir, and Manes contemporary, has effectively managed to create a dedicated fan-base, whose demographics is composed of mainly black metal fans who are into the rawer, more brutal version of deranged black metal.

This album is quite hermetic, and difficult to approach, actually, I had to listen to it several times in order to completely digest all its components. Can this album be considered experimental or avant-garde? That's subjective, but in my opinion, I think that this album truly manages to escape the area, countless contemporary black metal bands dwell on, to explore new plains, as vast as they may be. One thing which becomes clear as soon as the first two songs finish, is the "drone" sound in the background. That sound, in my opinion, this sound is definitely one of the obstacles which will decide whether one likes this album, or not. At first, I was asking myself what the fuck that noise was, but as the album grew on me, I learned to appreciate it, even though I'm not the biggest fan. The dominant instrument on this album is the drum machine, which doesn't really manage to emulate the sound of a real-life drums.

The vocals are completely deranged, and as you let it screech your mind, you begin to realize that one has to be insane, or at least semi-mentally deficient in order to do such dissonant, evil vocals. The way I see it, these kinds of vocals, are the most suitable in the song called "Hatefull unto God". The atmosphere created by the war-like drums, and the effects of the keyboard, certainly go hand in hand with these vocals. I must admit though, the ten minute song entitled "Melancholike" becomes truly boring, because you instantly realize that the song is going nowhere, and that the unnecessary ten minutes dedicated to it, only serve to bore you out of your now-deprived mind.

"Homerica Medicatio", the last song on the album is an entirely "ambient" song which contains only samples of raging winds which make you feel anxious about a forthcoming apocalypse. It truly is a worthy outro for the entire album, which is quite short when compared to other black metal releases, spanning for a miserable half hour. The bass, and the guitars are non-existent, which makes you think about the direction in which Paul Ledney is trying to go. This album is certainly influenced by ambient/black metal bands such as Abruptum, and Arckanum, two cult Swedish black metal bands. The production is all-right, but hey, we can't really complain about how the guitars are being drowned by the drums, or the bass cannot be heard because the other instruments over-power it, since they are not present on this album, as I've already explained.

Overall, this album is not that bad, and it can make up for quite an unorthodox listen, which will convolute you, and your freaking brain seriously. Apparently, Hell's Headbangers, the label which released this album, is trying to become a forerunner in releasing albums produced by insane people, for insane people. I suggest that if you aren't really into the avant-garde/raw side of black metal to keep at least a hundred fathoms away from this album. But, if you're open-minded about your music, and ready to explore new territory, this album is quite all-right, even if lacking in a lot of traits.

Kembatinan Premaster-piece - 98%

MikeyC, November 20th, 2010

I’m going to admit, I avoided Havohej for a long time because I thought the name was stupid. Havohej. Jehovah spelled backwards. How freakin’ Satanic is that! I’m growing horns just thinking of it. I forgot about the band for a while, and when I saw them mentioned once more, I checked the Metal-Archives page out of curiosity and saw the tag “experimental” up there, which did increase my interest. I saw their (his?) album Kembatinan Premaster in a shop for relatively cheap and decided to go for it. What a great buy that turned out to be!

Mind you, the only other experience I’ve had is that blasphemous spoken-work track “Dethrone The Son Of God” from the album of the same name, and it still remains as one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard, so I was naturally a little sceptical. That scepticism washed away as I was working my way through this experimental black metal masterpiece. After the initial thumping ends, we’re treated to some screams over drums and some rumbling noise in the background, sounds which will become the benchmark of the album.

What you will quickly notice about Kembatinan Premaster is the lack of guitar. That is one thing I love about this album, too: the fact that there are no discernable guitars or guitar riffs, yet the music can still remain completely interesting using drums, vocals, rumbling, and various other noises. Even minus guitars, the sound is certainly black metal and is shown through the production and, more openly, the vocals. Paul Ledney has some ferocious, blasphemous screams that permeate blissfully, shrieking his way through the album with force and intent. I can’t understand a single word he’s saying because the album doesn’t come with lyrics, but I count the vocals as another important element in making Kembatinan Premaster the unique album it is.

The drumming is great. While nothing terribly special or technical, it drives the songs forward the way they should. Most songs contain a single drum beat that serves more like a metronome for the rest of the music, but they still have some simple soloing going on, like on “Bloud And Souls.” I’m unsure if the drums are real or programmed, but they sound real and they do their job with perfection, so that’s all that really matters.

What really binds the album together, though, are the various sounds and noises and general experimentation of the album. It would not be what it is without the opening thumping sounds (also found at the end of “Hatefull Unto God”), the dissonance at the beginning of “Bloud Of The Word”, and the ambient closer, “Homerica Medicatio.” However, my favourite is the 10-minute “Melancholike,” with the static-like opening noises, and what sounds like a skipping vinyl that repeats for over two minutes to close the album and is found within the song. While that doesn’t sound like pleasing listening, you’d probably be right, but in the context of what Havohej are trying to convey here, it’s absolutely wonderful.

I think Havohej achieved the unachievable here: an album without guitars and that’s still evil. Mixed together with some experimentation with various sounds and you’ve got an album that’s unlike anything you’ll hear. There’s really nothing else like this out there to my knowledge. Pick this up at all costs.

This is... something. Something indeed. - 90%

Noktorn, April 10th, 2010

A few notes on how to listen to this, to begin:

1. I've listened to this at about every general point during the day, and 4 AM is the winner. It's too late to just be a late night and too early to be an early morning; it's a total no-man's land of time. Having a fucked up sleep schedule seems to help too; it has the best results when you're listening to this at that time but just woke up, also. I think listening to this while you're still kind of groggy lets it sink in better.

2. You have to be alone, of course. Darkness is an option but surprisingly enough not really necessary. Feel free to have a lamp on.

3. Do something else while you listen to it; only give it half your attention. It's a little too thin musically to pay complete attention to and the music seems designed to seep into the subconscious anyway more than be actively listened to.

This is, understandably enough, a departure from 'Dethrone The Son Of God', but completely understandable in the long run. It's not like when you listen to Havohej's first full-length you get all wrapped up in the intricate riffcraft and subtle melodies; the whole appeal of the album is its borderline incoherent nature and insanely rage-filled delivery, so with that in mind, it seems inevitable that Ledney would eventually just abandon the idea of playing 'normal music' altogether with this project. In short, anyone who really got what was going on with the first album could see something approximating this coming from miles away.

A lot of people seem to like this, which is nice and all, but I'm pretty sure a good 75% of the people who like it are missing the point entirely. 'Kembatinan Premaster' is not black metal; it's just inarguable and seeing people refer to this as black metal makes me really wonder what the hell set of standards they're using. The central, most crucial facet of this release is that it does not use guitars. If it does use guitars, they are so pitch-shifted, distorted, and warped with any number of effects that the fact that they were guitars to begin with is completely irrelevant, as is if they're playing actual riffs as everything from them is reduced to whirring, chirping, grinding noise underneath the drums (Programmed? Real? Who knows) and vocals. Yes, this has screechy vocals, occasionally thrashy drumming, and a dark atmosphere, but I have trouble imagining a black metal album without guitar, bass, or any actual riffing or melodic structure whatsoever.

What this most closely resembles would be the much maligned 'Ordog' by Black Funeral, which predates this by several years and essentially employs the same musical style but doesn't get a tenth of the appreciation that this does. Admittedly the composition and aesthetic choices are better and more streamlined on this, but not so much that it completely changes the game of 'Ordog' and I'm not convinced that the metal scene just suddenly caught up with this style in four years; I think everyone's letting Ledney (and Hell's Headbangers I suppose) off easy due to celebrity status. Anyway, I guess the best way to characterize this would be to call it 'black industrial', a term I use for bands like Roadkill Sodomizer or Ordo Tyrannis where the general essence and aesthetics of black metal are applied to a base of pure industrial/electronic music. 'Kembatinan Premaster' fits the bill here perfectly, but in a rather different way than one typically hears.

Now when people talk about music being amelodic, I generally scoff, but 'Kembatinan Premaster' is perhaps as amelodic as it gets without descending into full-fledged noise. There are no melodic voices anywhere on the album; the central noise layer of the maybe-guitars has no tonal properties, Ledney's vocals are delivered in a monotonous snarl, and there are no synths or any melodic effects to speak of. To make this more curious is the fact that, in the central feature that separates this from 'Ordog', the production has none of the album's synthetic coldness. Just the opposite: 'Kembatinan Premaster''s sound is very warm. Uncomfortably hot, actually, with every voice on the album seeming to be a little too fast, too rich, too loud, too everything, managing to pass the safe boundaries of just about every sonic feature just enough to make the listener uneasy the whole way through.

The really funny thing about this album is that despite the essentially major shift in style, the compositional structure of this album is pretty much the same as on 'Dethrone The Son Of God'. Contrasting shorter, almost randomly arranged tracks with much longer, ultra-repetitive and droning compositions, song structure which appear to be arranged while sitting in the studio, an offhand and seemingly improvisational style of delivery; all of Havohej's weird little idiosyncrasies are present in full force. The difference here is that this sort of style seems much more comfortably at work in what is essentially a full-fledged noise album rather than something kind of black metal; not having any melodic voices that get confused in the random structures is a big help to giving the music the sort of linearity and perplexing, unquantifiable feel Ledney is clearly going for.

As you can guess this is an album all about mood, and it certainly does have that, and more impressively, one that I haven't heard before. It's post-occult; Ledney doesn't bother reading the Necronomicon or studying Satanic mythology because he's making his own mythos as he goes along, arbitrarily flipping Christian mythology upside-down and creating things out of whole cloth as he goes, resulting in music that at times seems like the exact antonym of, say, Gregorian chant or any form of traditional religious music. It has a hyper-medieval quality despite its industrial leanings which makes this appear to be the soundtrack to farming dirt outside a castle as you watch black plague victims get carried away on carts. It goes with something I've heard in a few other albums that I refer to as 'ultrarealism'; it's portraying something authentic and real, but in an unnervingly extended and intensified way, like it's a higher-resolution-than-reality image of something that actually exists.

It's hard to talk about how this music is actually set up because it all seems so random; a race of programmed or possibly real drums just slams away at thrash beats or 'close your eyes and click randomly in FLStudio' rhythms under the churning, repetitive noise drones (however they might be generated) and a layer of too-loud, probably programmed bass, with Ledney periodically interjecting with too-loud, too-clear oldschool USBM snarls. Things just happen; there's no structure to speak of. Tracks will open with full minutes of literally nothing happening but churning industrial noise before drums and vocals just crash in without any build-up or resolution; everything just stops or starts with not a hint of dynamics or elegance at all. It makes for something very immediate and highly unnerving; 'Kembatinan Premaster' is so distant from what people typically regard in music or even black metal that it can't help but be unsettling in its unflinching, wide-eyed, willfully monotonous delivery.

Ironically, while this is wholly removed from black metal in all but the most basic aesthetics, I can't help but think it's a leap forward for the genre; 'Ordog' kind of felt like a one-off experiment, but this feels like a more calculated move in the direction of post-black metal. Ledney clearly knows exactly what he's going for on this release; it's very precise in its randomness and the sole member of this project seems dedicated to smashing what we knew of black metal with this album. It's chillingly effective; Ledney has abandoned everything we thought as necessary in black metal, metal, or even music and just made this piece of sonic art that abandons human elements for something from a completely different world than this one. Something is afoot here; the real question is where Ledney goes after this.

So what would be an improvement on this admittedly new and interesting sound? Oddly enough, more structure might help; the random nature of this music is part of its charm but also prevents it from completely ensnaring the listener. If the elements at hand on 'Kembatinan Premaster' were a bit more codified and defined I think it could be something completely genre-changing. As such, it's just a very excellent album that can be listened to again and again. It's transcending the conventions of metal but I'm not sure it's setting something up for the future, which is why I'm curious to hear Havohej's next release. Something very new can definitely be made from this and I want to see what Havohej and other artists do with the style at hand.

I recommend this massively while at the same time being completely unsure of who to recommend it to; a lot of people seem to like it but I'm not sure they grasp the significance of it. It's atmospheric and dark but those are really sort of minimal concerns when facing the sheer compositional audacity of the album. Any way you slice it, you have to listen to it; this is massively forward-thinking music that isn't making something new cobbled together from already existing elements. 'Kembatinan Premaster' appears to arise from nothing and promise nothing, and in that regard, it's truly something to be impressed by and afraid of.

Havohej reigns - 90%

Pratl1971, February 17th, 2010

Paul Ledney goes back pretty damn far in the black metal scene, especially the United States scene. The mastermind behind Profanatica and co-founder of Incantation, Ledney issues the essence of audio evil with his first full-length since 1993’s Dethrone the Son of God. After a host of EP’s the latest offering is quite possibly one of the better black metal offerings by a U.S., band in some time. Upon hearing this CD, the first thing I think of is that very thin cusp between Bathory’s The Return and Under the Sign of the Black Mark. It’s unrelenting, vile, insane and drenched in evil in the exact formula that makes for a good black metal offering. I take great pride in being able to say that Kembatinan Premaster is what most of the black metal bands, stateside or otherwise, have failed to achieve over the course of the last decade or so.

The CD is a step forward, while not really changing the feel or sound of the Havohej dichotomy. In short, it’s the same thing ever-progressing, and if that seems a bit of an oxymoron it really isn’t. Havohej moves forward without relying on current trends or influences to dictate the terms of the music. The same sound from ten years ago is still a viable outlet if crafted in all the right areas. Ledney has long maintained that he is leaps and bounds ahead of this peers and he’s right. The simple truth of the matter is if you claim to be a black metal fan and you don’t like this release, then you simply don’t get it. It’s bold and grandiose to make such a statement, but it’s the truth. Black metal is hateful, self-loathing, combative, morose and brilliantly-dark music not made for everyone. Havohej is all of this and more, especially on Kembatinan Premaster in its entire somber splendor.

Clocking in at just under the 35-minute mark, the CD is a trip into the wicked mind of a man possessed by a desire to create some of the most unholy sounds imaginable. The Bathory influences aside, Kembatinan Premaster is the CD you play while lying on a bed in a dark room and just allowing the music to enter your body – that’s the essence of black metal music. It’s a journey into Hell, most evident on the track “Pious Breath.” Crude and akin to trudging through a murky swamp, this music finds its way into your psyche if you are so inclined to allow for such radical enlightenment.

The CD is amazing, brilliant, and important with the current collective of subpar garbage infecting the BM scene these last few years. As I said, if you sincerely understand the true black metal mind-frame then this CD cannot and should not be missed. What is sadly absent in the current existence of BM music can be found in the melodies of brutality and hatred contained through the visions of Paul Ledney.

Proceed with caution…it just might claim you.

Originally written for

An intense, pitiless album of industrial noise BM - 80%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, December 26th, 2009

One of the longest intervals between an act's debut album and its second album - wow, it must have been "difficult" - came to an end this year when Havohej released "Kembatinan Premaster". In the meantime of course, Havohej has released several EPs and those of us who must have everything that Havohej has done since the debut album will know how much this one-man band's music has changed. A few things about Havohej haven't changed between albums - those pounding drumbeats and the spitting-bile vocal delivery that grates on the eardumes for a start have stayed the same - but the really dramatic change is in the rest of the music: completely industrial / ambient in a lo-fi way that makes me think for some weird reason of early scenes in US movie director David Lynch's early classic "Eraserhead" where the hero with the hair-raising hair-do goes about his normal life in an extremely bleak black-and-white landscape before his path crosses with that of a strange family that dumps a monstrous mewling embryo baby on him. The industrial element is muddy and mostly consists of repeating loops of rhythm so it's relentless in the manner of rickety rustbucket machines stuck on permanent "Go", grinding out incrreasingly inedible sausages ever more stuffed full of screws, bolts and steel springs until they all collapse some time in the future with furry red metal shrapnel flying up in the air. Apart from the rasping vocals, the only aspects that might be called "black metal" about this album include Havohej's attitude to religion, the minimalist songwriting approach and the suffocating evil atmosphere. Nothing here sounds remotely like guitars being played in a way that might be recognised as guitar-like though for all I know, guitars probably feature on just about every track here.

Nearly all songs feature one or two basic drumbeat rhythms and those looping industrial rhythms combined with a constant stream of noise that might be kindly described as a dark version of the "white noise" that you hear at the end of a CD when all the music's just finished, the volume level is at maximum still and there's that steaming pause just before the shut-off mechanism comes on. Occasionally there are repetitive twitchy glitch effects convulsing in tracks like "Melancholike" that provide relief from the machine noise fog and metal throbbing. As if to mock the idea of "songs" as self-contained music packets, some tracks share the same industrial rhythms and drumbeat patterns and other tracks "bleed" straight into the next tracks (tracks 5 and 6 being an example of this). The impression I have is of a linked series of musical episodes detailing a kind of unending oppression that stunts your mental, moral and spiritual development through sheer repetition and a hellish ambience. Song titles like "Bloud and Souls" and "Hatefull unto God" suggest a regression to a medieval mind-set that never questions what is force-fed into it and denies all other possibilities, and will even cut down anything and everything that threatens the dominant and dominating ideology. "Homerica Medicatio" perhaps reveals the end result of this oppression: a bleak mental desert, shrouded in a perpetual chemical fog darkness, where everything is so sterile that even the very air there is unbreathable.

For a short album (about 35 minutes long), this is very intense with crushing machine pitilessness. Admittedly I haven't seen the lyrics and I might be reading a lot into this album but I get the feeling that what this album suggests is that believing in a stale ideology or belief system is much the same as being doped up to the eyeballs on addictive tranquillisers and other strong pharmaceuticals ... well, religion is one of many addictive drugs after all ...

Mastered - 77%

Daru_Jericho, November 21st, 2009

Havohej are most known for their 1993 full-length 'Dethrone the Son of God' and as one of America's original leading black metal bands. However, after the release of this raw black metal classic, Paul Ledney, the band's sole member, followed an increasingly noise route. Now Havohej release their second album, their first in over fifteen years.

'Kembatinan Premaster' is an unnerving, uncomfortable listen, completely devoid of any metal conventions in favour of black noise. It represents one thirty seven minute song divided into eight tracks. Guitars are employed not to create individual notes or riffs but sounds and fuzz that echo black voids and hopelessness. 'Pious Breath' features the guitars gurgling while 'Melancholike' includes an otherwordly grating sound. Drums play simplistic patterns, alien to metal and fairly repetitive. High pitched frequencies torture on 'Melancholike' and 'Hatefull Unto God' and the album essentially becomes interactive with the former track as the guitars scrape on alternating speakers, truly stealing the listener's attention in an eldritch manner.

Although the album is essentially one entire song, the tracks do not flow formlessly into each other. It is simple to recognise the start and end of each track but it would feel more of a whole experience if the tracks blended into each other. The interruptions appear to dislocate the atmosphere. Otherwise, this is a chilling and unsettling observation aiming to alienate the listener. Fans of old Havohej should not expect a return to black metal at all. Fans of harsh noise and anti-music ideals will certainly enjoy this unque offering.

Originally written for

Primitive, vile black metal heart still pulses - 85%

autothrall, November 20th, 2009

Here's one I've been sitting on for some time, as the mood it creates is one that I only occasionally have the stomach to visit. Those of you familiar with Paul Ledney's work (in particular I speak of Profanatica and Havohej) know that he's always had a proclivity for engaging, disturbing material, a stark contrast from much of the USBM scene. If you've been following the renewed activity of this band (the Tungkat Blood EP in 2007 and Hornbook Seytan EP in 2008) you'll know that an increased use of ambiance and industrial noise has crept into the style. The primitive, vile black metal heart still pulses blood beneath this sheen of subterranean endeavor, and surely you will hear brief touches that recall the classic Dethrone the Son of God album (now 16 years old).

Kembatinan Premaster carries forward the torch of minimalist abrasion that fueled Ledney's past releases with this band, in a haunting and fascinating stroke to the psyche, a black spike of nihilism that will enter through the temples and snake its way down into the hearts, stomachs and intestines of those who behold it. This album is a bowel movement for taste, complexity and pretentious fuck all, derisive in its honesty and divisive in its affectations. The title track opens like an industrial defibrillator, before a driving beat thrums to life below a wall of hovering noise and Ledney's perverse rasp. "Pious Breath" continues the swelling noise with a faster, almost blasted beat, and "Bloud and Souls" feels like you're about to be slapped upside the head with Ministry until the tortured throat opens and the man summons oblivion. "Melancholike" is further dense, turbulent noise with the accompaniment of drums and grimness. One of the more fascinating tracks is "Sundowning (Destroie Men and Beasts With Lookes)", which feels like Tangerine Dream and Fenriz jamming while a vacuum sucks your brains out through your nose. I also fancied the piercing pangs and slugging of "Hatefull Unto God" and the brief, oily swell of dark ambiance that closes the album in "Homerica Medicatio".

This is truly a 'bedroom' style release, but I don't mean that in any trendy sense, just that an album like this can be recorded with a bare minimum of equipment and a simple piece of software. That does not render it any less profound or interesting. The noise elements here are actually accessible when compared to an artist like Merzbow, but there is just something so dark about what Ledney has accomplished. It fucks with you, it hypnotizes you, and it makes you hate all life, and yet, appreciate it...

Highlights: Sundowning, Pious Breath, Hatefull Unto God, Melancholike


A New Sound for Black Metal - 85%

boneexposed, August 10th, 2009

When you first listen to “Kembatinan Premaster” you might find it a little bit repetitive, you might also ask yourself “Where the hell are the riffs?” but when you give it a second listen you can notice that Paul Ledney is still having original ideas.

This album has some of the essence that the last two EP’s have, but it’s only the essence. On this album you can find a little bit more black metal than on the other two that I already mentioned. The songs here are a mix of pure primitive black metal with a good production and some ambient/noise that give the album a great energetic and dark mood. Just imagine two notes of your favorite Profanatica song played during all the song.

The bass here doesn’t change a lot but it’s still powerful, the same happens with the drum machine, several songs have the same beat. What I found pretty interesting is that the intention of this album is not making a riff with the guitar, the guitar is just there to make the noise. The elements added there, like the noises that sound like an old machine, play with your mind and you start to feel the catchiness of the song. This last thing happens because Paul Ledney’s vocals aren’t just the vocals, they become an instrument too. When you mix all this, believe it or not, you have a not so repetitive song.

Some of the songs that I liked the most are “Bloud And Souls”, “Melancholike” and “Sundowning”, also I fucking love that pummeling noise that is used on the first track and on “Hatefull Unto God”.

If you are looking for raw black metal or even something similar to new Profanatica, this is not the album you want to listen, this is something that goes beyond. And I gave an 85 to this album because I wanted more songs.