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A Natural Progression - 82%

psychoticnicholai, February 3rd, 2014
Written based on this version: 2009, Digital, Independent (Bandcamp)

Kekal's 2005 release, Acidity sees the band focusing less on aggression and more on progression. Songs have gotten much longer and more adventurous in their approaches. You will hear more emphasis on clean vocals as opposed to the less numerous black metal vocals on Acidity. Avant-garde elements such as the various electronic effects have been ramped up and further integrated into the sound of the music on this album. This has led to overall a less harsh, more intelligent sound to Acidity. It's a very long and very rewarding experience as far as sound and song are concerned. However, do not fear, the songwriting is as sharp as could be and gives us a perfect soft landing down from the masterpiece that was 1000 Thoughts Of Violence. Kekal still sounds sharp, hard, and edgy on Acidity and shows those qualities in spades in addition to the new progressive focus.

For example, Characteristicon, the first song on this album, exposes the expanding melodic and progressive influences perfectly while still showcasing some black metal muscle and giving us soaring riffage coupled with cutting solo work and unique but fitting atmospheric effects in the background. This song sets the standard for this album and easily cements itself as the best track on it. It's paced perfectly and has all the dynamics maxed out to the point which they affect your mood to the very best. Progressive songwriting is further explored by Strength In My Weakness which sounds almost like Immortal or Ulver meets Rush coupled with it's prog-styled songwriting and emphasis on clean vocals over black metal vocals. That said, the riff-work is still a real treat on this one and is a clear example of this band's expertise in making songs that really engage the ear. These kinds of elements are explored even more as this album has a strong metal backbone but embraces melody and emotion with their clean vocals and soaring guitar-play. Atmospherics are employed during Thy Neighbor's Morality along with mosh-worthy rhythms complemented by a more progressive melody aside it to keep things interesting. Atmospherics are experimented to even greater extent on the larger, more progressive pieces here A mixture of musical styles with that simple core of prog/black rhythms gives a sense of unity to all these varied songs and makes them feel as though they belong together despite these elements being radically different in some cases.

Acidity features a very epic and adventurous feeling to the overall album as the songs have many dynamics and shifts that keep the album going. It seems only natural that Acidity would be the next step for Kekal after 1000 Thoughts Of Violence and their previous albums as they have slowly shed their black metal elements and have looked to go into their avant-garde influences a little more. It feels natural despite being a big change and the album itself flows very well, only dragging at a very few points near the end. That's just about the only flaw I can point out. Otherwise it's consistent, yet diverse and tight progressive metal throughout. It may not be legendary, but it's still a great album throughout and It's up for free download on Kekal's website, so go check it out.

Taking metal into strange new territories - 100%

MortalScum, August 15th, 2009

Avant-garde has always been a hit or miss genre for me. Some bands like Faith No More just don’t really do anything for me while others have brilliant ideas on paper but don’t really sound so good (for example the band Tool recording themselves destroy a piano with sledgehammers). However, every once and a while a band will come along that will sound like nothing I’ve ever heard and completely blow me away. Kekal is one of these bands. Before this I heard some songs off of their 1998 release “Beyond the Glimpse of Dreams” While it bore some very small resemblance of what their future will hold it was, for the most part, a black metal album.

Seven years after “Beyond the Glimpse of Dreams” the band released this album. Gone are about 90% of the black metal elements and are replaced by strange and unorthodox experimentation, most of which is coming from Jeffray Arwadi’s head I believe. The instruments that stand out the most here are the guitars and keyboards. The guitars have a very good tone, they have some fuzz, but not overly distorted for this style of music. The rhythm guitar tone is thick and heavy but doesn’t lose all the one string melodies and solos. The lead tone is very clear and doesn’t lose anything in distortion. The guitars are very well played on this album; the chord progressions are very unusual but in a good way, they keep you interested. It sounds very much like the band tried to avoid predictable chord progressions at all costs. The leads are well thought out and they fit with the rhythm parts but don’t detract too much attention from them. The keyboard is probably the instrument that really makes this release a strange one, it contributes a range of different sounds from the typical 80s synthesizer sound (see “The Way of Thinking Beyond Comprehension”) to violins (“Thy Neighbor’s Morality”) and every thing in between. The keyboards do a lot of their own thing as well as harmonize with the guitars but this release is by no means synth-based.

In this release Kekal is using something they call “hybrid drumming” which is part real drums and part drum machine (which is used to achieve sounds from electro music). However there isn’t much drum machine on this release for the most part it is standard metal drumming but it works very well for this release. The vocals are also done very well. Even though they are mostly harsh screams there are some very good clean vocals in there. It’s really a very good mix, the screams don’t dominate the entire release but the singing doesn’t overstay its welcome.

The more I surf the web I can’t help but notice how few people pay attention to this band, it’s a shame because this band has some very good, interesting ideas but it seems like no one is paying attention. I feel that its partially because of their avant-garde label, no one really knows what to expect from that genre there’s no way to tell whether its good or bad, or even get an idea for that matter. I really think that more people should look into this band, especially if you want something new to add to the black, death, doom, thrash rotation.

Indonesian Brilliance. - 90%

Perplexed_Sjel, May 21st, 2009

I’ve previously reviewed one Kekal record, ‘The Painful Experience’, but this was when I was an amateur at this reviewing game and was unfamiliar with avant-gardé, or experimental metal. My thoughts and feelings were obscured by my elitist ways and I’m man enough to admit that my judgment was clouded by my black tinted eyes that only envisioned a metal genre that consisted entirely of black metal. As I’ve matured, I’ve grown to expand my tastes, broaden my horizons and look elsewhere for material to review. After reviewing only black metal for a while, it becomes more and more difficult to do it well, so to better myself as a reviewer and help me become more coherent and competent, I decided to start reviewing bands outside of black metal, but starting with bands who could easily fit within the genre in one way or another, however small the similarities were. Kekal were one of my first attempts at broadening my horizons, so they suffered a bit of the wrath that existed as I tried to push my way through the hazy clouds that left me visually impaired. I was blind, but now I can see. This religious connotative expression is apt in regards to Kekal. This Indonesian band, from Jakarta originally, have grown in stature in regards to my opinion on them, specifically their latter day material, which includes this effort, the multi-dimensional and multi-purpose ‘Acidity’.

Kekal are one of the major forces in Asian music. Alongside bands like Sabbat, whom I’m not overly familiar with, and Sigh, whom I am familiar with, Kekal are representing their continent and state well within the metal genre. Their appeal stretches far beyond their confines and across the world, giving them a universal appeal that is important to the success of the band. It would seem that most of the major forces in this area of the world are from places like Japan. However, other nations, such as China are steadily developing a relationship with metal that can only be a positive thing. With the worlds largest population, it probably isn’t a surprise that nations like China are beginning to establish themselves, particularly in the black metal field. The growth of areas like this is essential to the nature of metal since it expands upon the already existing market, which will eventually lead to an influx of bands, with potential, from all areas of the globe, included dilapidated areas of the world where hobbies are everything. Asia is a continent that I’m only beginning to explore properly and avant-gardé is a brand of music that I’m also only starting to listen to. The so-called “extreme” sub-genre of metal is a strange one. I consider the other genres, like black and death to be extreme by nature, so the tagging of this genre is nonsensical, in my opinion. What makes even less sense is the fact that genres include hybrid acts, like black/death metal bands and so forth. To me, this style of “extreme” metal is precisely that -- black and death combined, with hints of progressive.

Just listen to the vocals on here for examples of such combinational play that usually takes place within black/death acts. Rasping vocals, with emotive clean vocals intertwined into the mix. It isn’t the genre that is unique, it’s the bands within it. Or, at least, a small minority of them. Bands like Opeth have been pioneering within this genre for over a decade and get most of the recognition as far as spreading the genres messages goes but, to me, bands like Kekal, who’s influence on the genres direction is subtle, are the most productive bands and deserve more credit seeing as their national scene isn’t as strong as, lets say, the Scandinavian scene which bands like Opeth fall into. Although these two bands are completely and utterly different, the description still states that they work within the same field of expertise, so I will compare and contrast, as well as judge them against one another to prove a point, however incoherent it might be. The closest I had come to listening to something along the lines of Kekal’s ambitious music was when I discovered Arcturus in the early days and although they were clearly diverse in their day, their material doesn’t match up to the significant amounts of experimentation present in a band like this, the now two piece Indonesian band who’s gifts for creating unique songs through widely ranging genre influences is practically unsurpassed. Although it may not seem important in the grand scheme of things, where the band is based is incredibly important.

Think about it, when Kekal were formed, back in 1995, metal wasn’t exactly Indonesia’s leading brand of music, and I doubt that it is now (though the Indonesian music market isn’t familiar to me). A small section of underground bands probably existed, quietly, until the internet came along, of course. With the invention of the internet, bands started to spring up all over the place as the genre became more accessible. More importantly, accessible to people in countries where metal didn’t have a scene, therefore they pioneered one. Bands like Kekal are evidently important in this scene seeing as they’re most likely one of the first bands in Indonesia to even contemplate becoming a metal band and a successful one at that. As far as I know, Kekal have a strong following and they themselves are loyal to their fans, whom they seem to greatly appreciate the support of. This shows in the fact that the band often offer their records, for free, for download to the public. Whoever wants one, can have one, courtesy of the band themselves, which is a nice gesture given the fact that it is they who put the effort in to actually make the music. Gifts like these really establish a band as good, giving people, which makes them instantly likeable. Of course, musicians who don’t give away their music aren’t immediately unloved, but the gentlemen behind Kekal seem really passionate about giving the fans something back after years of unfaltering support.

Generally, when something is given to us for free in the music world, we don’t expect it to be that good. Fortunately, this is, ‘Acidity’ is the first Kekal record I’ve listened to in a long, long time. Not since I heard ‘The Habit of Fire’ back in 2007, in fact. I remember loving it, so I’m struggling to understand why I didn’t run with the love and listen to this band more than I have because I genuinely do enjoy listening to them and their majestic musings. This record offers the listener a chance to see what true avant-gardé is, and I don’t mean that in the pretentious way that certain folks within the black metal scene mean it when they offer up the truest black metal bands known to man, the devil and god themselves. This Indonesian act are as experimental as their description says. There are no false previews here, no false accusations and no issues with corrupt lies. Kekal are all about putting on one hell of a show through their instrumentation. They let the music speak for itself and don’t concern themselves with idle talk about how experimental they are, how they’re transforming the face of metal. The professionalism oozes from the individuals behind the music and flows directly into the instrumentation. According to the additional information on the record itself, “Former members of Kekal also contribute in the recording, making ‘Acidity’ to be the first official reunion album for Kekal.” This explains precisely why the record flows as well as it does. The musicians know one another so well that they can play it complete harmony with each other without apprehension or worrying that the sound might not come across as well as it possible could.

Given Kekal’s various influences and splendiferous characteristics which they borrow from other genres, the band somehow manage to miraculously merge all the styles together into one chaotic record that coherently spreads its infectious message of philosophical views with consummate ease. Each section of the instrumentation likes to add a sense of dynamism to the soundscapes, with the guitars often lending themselves to black metal and the percussion acquainting itself with death metal. This style often explodes into our living rooms given its vigorous take on the applied genres. From black, to death and even to progressive, the band somehow manage to fit everything in and perfectly together. Other areas of the instrumentation even lend themselves to outside factors, like ‘Thy Neighbor’s Morality’, which reminds me of another influential Asian band called World’s End Girlfriend, who’re a one man electronic based post-rock band with other varying influences. Hopefully, a comparison like this does the record justice and indicates just how well Kekal can accommodate unfamiliar sounds into their music. ‘Acidity’ is difficult to judge given its varied sound, with symphonies, solos and chaotic soundscapes that truly deserve the “extreme” tag, this record and this band are extraordinary. Highlights include ‘Characteristicon’ and ‘A Dream For A Moment’, which has some of the best instrumentation and vocals on the record.