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Another solid, enjoyable Kekal album - 81%

emazapher, May 21st, 2013

2007 was a good year for Kekal. It was the year they released their (arguably) finest album “The Habit of Fire” (no, I’m not a fan of their much-loved 2003 album “1000 Thoughts of Violence”). Expectations were high, but they delivered it better in many ways. Since the album, Kekal hasn’t delivered any strong enough follow-up that would stir your mind and soul the way “The Habit of Fire” does. And then, more than 5 years after, it came “Autonomy”, Kekal’s official 9th full-length album. I have watched Kekal closely since I’ve discovered the band in 2007, and every time they put out another album, I always put “The Habit of Fire” as a reference point. “Autonomy” - in my humble opinion - is the closest they could get to “The Habit of Fire”, the pace and atmosphere are a little bit similar, and so the whole concept. Also, production on this album is one of their best. While without a doubt “Autonomy” is better than their previous 2 albums (“8” and “Audible Minority”), sadly, songwriting is still somewhat lacking the angst - which became one of Kekal’s songwriting strengths at that moment, but I will explain about this later.

The album opens with “Rare Earth Elements”, one of the best songs on “Autonomy” and it has its fair share of equally great music video as well. While the amount of experimentation was reduced to minimal, the song doesn’t shy away from the cutting-edge presentation and 'surprise moments'. They just cut the unnecessary weirdness out of the basic template, and replaced it with conventional approach of arrangement. Other highlights are: “Disposable Man” - with some Black Sabbath and grunge references thrown in, the sick “Indonesanity” with its more melodic answer to anything played by Sunn O))), the almost pop-catchy “Futuride” with its original interlude only made possible by Kekal, the heavy industrial rock tune “Playground”, and the ambient space metal hybrid “Space Between Spaces”. Progressive is the key trait here, but make no mistake: they are not a progressive metal album - unlike “The Habit of Fire”. Some experimental and avant-garde bits were thrown in as well for good measure, but they were not placed as important factor - they just act as a carrier to deliver a good music as a whole.

Pain is still one of the more important subject matters of Kekal, but what I can see now: that pain is slowly going away. It is good to see that life is finally doing good for Jeff as the main lyricist & songwriter, and I can see that he has settled down comfortably. The pain he portrays right now isn’t the pain he is experiencing, but I can understand him. At least he didn’t try to fake it and make it as he’s still pissed-off after all these years.

The bottom line: “Autonomy” is still a very strong and solid Kekal album, while not as strong as “The Habit of Fire”, it may be as enjoyable (if not more enjoyable) to listen to. There are no fast tunes that make your adrenaline flow, there are no angry tunes that make you to throw punches, no depressive tunes that make you want to cut yourself, they are just enough good tunes for you to enjoy, anytime. So grab your headphones, take “Autonomy”, and create your own adventure with a sense of purpose.