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The Rocky Transition - 72%

psychoticnicholai, March 24th, 2014

The Painful Experience could be an album that is unfortunately well-titled, given that it shows Kekal's transition from a black metal band with progressive and avant-garde elements into more of a fusion of the two styles. Black metal sound is still dominant on this album as guitars consist mostly of tremolos and vocals are still mostly shrieked. The Emperor sound of Embrace the Dead is largely gone, instead replaced by something much weirder and angrier. The resounding chaotic thunder that comes flying out of the stereo when this is played is equivalent to getting battered and enveloped by a mob of pissed off demons out for revenge. It leaps out at you and mashes away at your ears. While the album overall is vicious and potent, it still needs some work with ironing out it's rough edges as those rough edges stick out rather prominently.

We see a transition here form a very pure progressive black metal sound to one that is more along the lines of avant-garde/black metal. This is reflected in the style of the cover art too as gone are the landscapes, the beaches and jungles and in their place is something resembling a metal Jesus head with scratches and stitches, reflecting a more developed and unusual sound from their predecessor albums. This is further elaborated on by their albums 1000 Thoughts of Violence and Acidity with their cover art.

The only problem I could really find throughout this album is the rather silly vocals that Jeffray puts forward. Constipated King Diamond vocals tend to show up and can range from funny to irritating. The sad thing is, that when these irritating vocals come forward, the rest of the song is doing incredibly well and I just hate it when bad vocals ruin a good song. Slurred Sylvester Stallone/Hatebreed style shouting appears in certain songs like Mean Attraction where Jeff is trying to sound tough and beefy, but just ends up sounding drunk instead. The bass-y moans that Jeff experiments with come out much better, adding plenty of depth and strength to the already crushingly heavy music. When he mixes them with demonic distortions, it adds to the atmosphere of hellish chaos that the instruments exude. Jeff's clean singing is performed much better and is a relief to hear instead of the King Diamond wailing. Vocally, this album has some strengths and some weaknesses, overall it's not consistent, but where it shines, it shines.

The Monsters Within is an incredibly dark and angry song which pummels the listener with blast beats and tremolos going at incredible speed. Jeffray's shrieks and moans with the imposing synthesizer effects create an atmosphere of pure hell. It punishes you and leaves no quarter as if rushes past you with the utmost speed and fury. You can almost feel your ears being jackhammered in by this tune. The synths at the beginning practically say "welcome to hell", ironic seeing that this is supposed to be a very "christ-y" album. This brutal blackened sound is revisited on Given words and acts as a welcome breakup to the songs with cat shriek/King Diamond vocals miring them.

Crave for Solid Ground calms the riffs down somewhat to a much more standard and less brutal tremolo and it sounds like the song is going to be good, if a little standard black metal, but then Jeff chimes in. He uses those awful King Diamond vocals on this track and they really put a damper on this track's performance, which is sad because it has some good moments like when it goes for a more stomping riff in the pre-chorus and a pretty decent actual chorus featuring soaring clean vocals accented by synths. The breakdown three quarters of the way through followed by a descending keyboard rhythm and then a quite epic solo do offer this track a lot in terms of redemption. and thankfully the Diamond wailing doesn't close out the song, but instead the main chorus does. Overall, it's decent, but the Diamond vocals can really grate your ears. Even so, the more Traditional black metal vocals and clean singing are much better and this applies to all of the songs.

Mean Attraction has a main riff that mainly revolves around pounding and thudding accented by epic sky-high rhythms and overall it's a great headbanging song. It drives and pounds with the utmost force and is extremely hard-boiled and vicious in it's riff-work. While the drunken Stallone vocals show up for a bit in this song, for the most part Jeff manages to deliver much sharper and much more potent black metal shrieks that fit the violent nature of this song much better. This is a good one to get the rage out to.

Like There's no Other Way to go has some of the best and most creative melodic riffing on this whole album, real uplifting and energetic. Unfortunately, the dying cat vocals show up and ruin it all, however if you manage to get ahead of those you'll find this song to be pretty damn enjoyable. It's a sad thing when a good song is so mired by annoying vocals. Behind Closed Doors and Militia Christi both have a similar problem. They are songs with good riffs, but ugly and asinine vocals.

The Painful Experience finally ends with the self titled song acting as a much larger and more melodic prog monolith at the very end. The melodic parts initially contrast one another before finally blending together and building to a grand and extravagant climax of ascendant guitar play and tight solo work before finally tapering off at the end with industrial effects leading calmly into Via Dolorosa which is largely just a filler track that ends the album on a mellow note, it's okay, but not really necessary. The self titled song though, is absolutely golden.

These tracks combined with the stellar musicianship and incredibly talented soloing make up the good in this album. The songwriting is done well and stands to do very well as far as delivering depth and emotion to it all with a hellish last of madness. The bad elements of this album are the aforementioned vocals, they are a mixed bag of good, average, and repulsive and represent where the rocky transition is most evident, instead of disjointed riffs or discombobulated avant-garde elements that normally go along with rough transitions like this, it's the vocals, the screechy, irritating vocals. While most of the new avant-garde sound blends well into what Kekal was trying to do, those cursed King Diamond vocals have to come in and soil it all. If you can stomach the King Diamond wails and the drunk Stallone vocals, then you'll view this album as brilliant and a bridge to the gap between Embrace the Dead and 1000 Thoughts of Violence. However if you can't stomach them, you'll probably see this as a still decent album, albeit with a lot of soiled potential. Even in the face of those, the more standard vocals used by the Jeff are actually pretty good and make up most of the vocals actually used, so don't despair too much. Overall, I kind of liked it and managed to salvage a lot of good out of it, even in spite of the dying cat singing.

Unorthodox & Experimental. - 60%

Perplexed_Sjel, October 13th, 2007

The dictionary defines Avant-Gardé as 'the advance group in any field, esp. in the visual, literary, or musical arts, whose works are characterised chiefly by unorthodox and experimental methods.' Truer words have never been spoken. Kekal are a very unusual band and 'The Painful Experience' is a very unusual full-length. Upon listening to any band tagged as 'experimental', I enter with some apprehension. I haven't come across many experimental bands that have appealed to me, therefore it's a genre I generally tend to stay away from. I tend to find many experimental bands let their music become far too clustered together. Nothing has any real impact upon the listener and it's hard not to let the music become tedious.

Kekal have broken the mould somewhat. Though 'The Painful Experience' can be just that at times, generally speaking, it's a very good full-length release which introduced me to a very unorthodox outfit from Indonesia, of all places. At times, the unusual blend of genres can become too much for my ears to handle, but that's not to say it will be the same with each individual who picks up this album. The vocals are particularly grating. The clean variation are perfectly acceptable. In fact, they're actually very good. They showcase a vast array of pitches and styles that the vocalist can perform, but the harsher vocals tend to become quite annoying after a certain period of time. They don't really suit the style of experimentation.

Another problem, which was mentioned already, is the uninspiring blend of genres all rolled into one. From power to heavy metal. It's all in there. Though each genre has derived from another, it still doesn't mix well. Slow sections placed side by side with faster sections add little impact. Black metal screams situated beside a prissy form of clean vocals does nothing but damage the opinion of the record. As the drums are programmed, they tend to feel quite plastic. They add little depth to the music and are simply blown away by the leads and bass. Kekal's best element is just that. Both the leads and bass. They tend to be quite catchy, which is highly effective in grabbing the attention of the listener and holding them down. Kekal are tremendous at creating smooth sounding melodies, but there's far too much experimentation going on for one to focus.

The Painful Experience - 86%

metalbassist777, June 20th, 2005

Up until this point Kekal have been known mostly as a fairly decent black metal band. However, The Painful Experience was their first step into the area of music known as avant-garde.

On The Painful Experience, Kekal have started to do a lot of experimentation in their sound. Especially in the vocal department. Not only are the familiar black metal screams used, but low growls, normal speaking, singing, yelling, and this slightly annoying high pitched style of singing/yelling that many people do not like at all. As usual, the drumming is programmed and therefore has that "fake" feel to it, which detracts from the enjoyment of this disc. The guitarists use a lot of tremolo picking and have a really strange tone on the guitar. However, the solos are very good as is most of the riffs used.

The CD starts off with The Monsters Within. This song is easily the heaviest and most black metal song on the whole cd. Very fast, very heavy, and kind of catchy as well. The next two songs have some very cool riffing (which is usual for Kekal), and maintain a fast pace. Like Theres No Other Place to Go is different from most of the songs and maintains a mid paced feel and is a bit more hard rockish than the other songs. After the Storm, is a very hard song to follow, and is probably the worst song on the cd. It starts off with a nice melody but then just goes completely nuts. Some weird solo is going on the whole time and its impossible to figure out the rhythm line. Overall, not a very well thoughtout song. Militia Christi is another one of my favourite songs. Despite the annoying high pitched vocals on the verses, it has a cool melody and a nice industrial outro which is very unexpected. The Painful Experience is the slow song on the cd and is very emotional. I like it a lot. Finally Via Dolorosa is a minimalist ambient piece that is a very good way to wrap up this cd. On my version, the bonus track is a remix of Like There's No Other Way To Go, which is terrible and shouldnt have been on it.

One thing I like about this cd is that everytime i listen to it I hear something else that I didnt notice before. There are a lot of very quiet instruments playing other stuff while the main melody is going, and they work very well in enhancing the song.

Overall, this is a very good avant-garde black metal album and should be picked up by all Kekal fans or fans of avant-garde metal. However, this is definately not Kekal's best. This is basically the bridging point between their black metal era and their avant-garde era so it is a little rough around the edges. Other then that, very good!