Khmer, other than being perhaps the coolest sounding word in existence, is a hardcore punk band from Spain who draw influence from black metal and old-school rock/metal, all of which blends into not only a unique but a refreshing sound. Well, you may shout that crust black metal is not a new thing, and you are right, but these Spaniards know their influences and they certainly build on top of it. After a few singles, demos, EP’s and a split, the group has finally put out their full-length album titled Larga Sombra, available as digital download, CD, tape and vinyl through different labels. This recording is very impressive and shows a lot of promise.
Obviously, as a hardcore punk band, Khmer’s music largely revolves around breakneck riffs, pounding drums and loud vocals. And while this formula looks pretty simple and uninteresting when written down like this, Khmer, utilize only one guitar — played by Ivan Ferro — to achieve an undeniable thick and fast sound; Ferro pulls it off extremely well. Every song on their album is full of not only of incredibly catchy riffs, but the riffing comes in such a variety of styles it is impossible to get bored. There are bleak, tremolo picked riffs and crushing power chords making the clear influence of black metal apparent, tempered by far more melodic sections like the intro of the opening “Larga Sombra (I, II).” “Perdiste el Filo” even breaks down into a groove driven jam. All of this glued together fluidly by fast, head-bang inducing punky riffs. As another deviation from the standard hardcore mold, their are plenty of solos dotted about throughout the album, though (to their credit) they never seem to be able to overpower the tremendous riffs.
Homage to classic acts is definitely a theme throughout Khmer’s music. Vocalist Mario Vaises, rather than employing the same old throaty yell/scream that fans of hardcore are surely bored to death of by now opts to sing using a relatively high-pitched, nihilistic howl like the early black metal bands. Conversely, however, rather than choosing to sing in English like most of these black metal precursors did, Vaises sings in Spanish, perhaps making them ironically more indifferent to international attention than their counterparts. Or maybe he just doesn’t speak English. Regardless, his vocal performance is great on this album.
Even though I don’t speak Spanish and don’t understand any of the lyrics — although there is a booklet including all of the lyrics in Spanish that are also translated in English and Japanese — Khmer are clearly a band playing their music just for the hell of it.
Releasing this album onto the metal scene with its various influences spanning genres and subgenres of rock and metal alike could not have been timed better by the band. In an era where most bands either sound stale with the same sound hopping from album to album or lose a margin of their fan base due to questionable experimentation throughout their career, Khmer have carved a niche for themselves in this devoted musical scene. That niche being that they breed so many different styles of music that it will be near impossible for anyone who considers themselves a fan of rock or metal in general to not find something to enjoy about this release.
With Larga Sombra, Khmer offer extreme metal that’s not afraid to smile, punk that’s not afraid of guitar solos, rock ’n’ roll that’s not afraid to scream. “Corriendo Tras el Fuego…” gets things on the ground before “El Ardor de la Crueldad” comes forth, leaning heavily towards hardcore. “A Este Lado de la Luna” is an atmospheric drone piece for the most of it, before the band kicks in with another larger-than-life wall of sound. “Lo Que deja Cicatriz” gradually evolves from rampaging punk, to full-throttle garage rock, eventually dissolving into a black metal part, stripping the band’s music down to skeletal form. Production work, courtesy of the band’s own Ivan Ferro, should be noted as well; he captured distorted guitar on record flawlessly, balancing abrasiveness, raw power, and accessibility with mind-boggling ease.
Each song on the record seems to introduce us to a band who knows exactly how to take our over-tagged genre of prefixes and suffixes and create a hybrid that will satisfy all needs in one simple package. I say simple because the record, in and of itself, does not rely on individual performances or over the top production. The band works best as a whole, not letting anyone stand in the spotlight for too long so as to steal the show. Though the record is riddled with drum and bass grooves, flashy solos, head bobbing gang vocal harmonies, near danceable musical “breakdowns” and short interludes of acoustic excitement you can never say that one influence is being worn on the group’s sleeve too prominently. It sounds as if the band has more in common with classics like AC/DC, The Ramones, and the Misfits rather than modern day heavy hitters of the genre.
Khmer’s Larga Sombra is an immensely enjoyable experience ideal not only for fans of hardcore punk-black metal but anyone who appreciates heavier music.
Larga Sombra is available as digital download, CD, Cassette and Limited Edition black vinyl from Bandcamp. The vinyl edition comes in a heavy 380 gram cover, 16-page A5 booklet, stickers and a download code. Photos can be seen below.
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