Band: Khthoniik Cerviiks
Label: Iron Bonehead
Genre: Progressive Death / Black Metal
Release Date: July 17, 2020
For fans of: Voivod, Howls of Ebb, Demilich
Let me start by going straight to the point – Khthoniik Cerviiks (KC) sounds like an alien trying to play human music. Or an alien trying to play human music, failing, and just going back to his own music. Or trying to weave human influences into alien music, or vice versa. You get the picture. They’re certainly not the first metal band to try something similar. We can refer to some of KC’s influences, like Voivod or Vektor who, the latter playing off the former, tried to take thrash metal to the next level by making it sound veritably otherworldly. You could also refer to Howls of Ebb, a band who KC did a split with, who made death metal of nether-dimensional alien creatures and their humanly incomprehensible culture.
Khthoniik Cerviiks does all that while putting their own spin on the concept. This is an especially respectable achievement since they wear their influences on their sleeve. I’d even say a good way to describe KC is as Voivod’s parallel-dimension evil twin. KC’s thrash influences are obvious, but they operate more in the realm of death/black metal. These aren’t your flying-saucer-driving little-green-men aliens. These are nefarious creatures dwelling in darkness.
“Æequiizoiikum” is a continuation of what KC did on their first record, 2015’s “SeroLogiikal Scars”. A record that frequently delivered straight banging riffs and grooves, even occasional hard rock bits, before pulling a fast one on you and going full “what is even going on”, but not just driving straight into suffocating dissonance as some bands are wont to, but twisting and turning metal techniques into unexpected shapes that still sound vaguely familiar (just like Voivod does!). Successfully employing this method is what makes KC so good – interweaving the familiar with the strange, constantly morphing the sound between the mundane and the abnormal.
In this regard, “Æequiizoiikum” is both a continuation and a transformation of this method. The people behind the band successfully mobilized their advancement as musicians in the meantime to create a creature that is even more fearsome than SeroLogikaal Scars. On this album, it feel as if they ascended to the next level of the interdimensional plane while still being anchored to the mortal realm. “Æequiizoiikum” is denser, fiercer and more abstract.
The track “Δt (Recite the Kriitiikal Mæss)” is a good showcase of this. Probably the most straightforward track on the record (probably why it was released as a single), it has a distinguished main riff, some cool melodies, chord-progressions and even kinda-chants strewn throughout. Yet if you put any of these elements into some other, ‘normal’, band’s song, they’d sound extremely off-putting. But in the context of KC, they sound familiar, comforting even in the midst of all the strangeness.
Other songs are less forgiving. “Para-Dog-Son – Demagorgon” sound like it tries to play straight death metal for a bit before lapsing into a weird imitation of the same, like the alien listened to one Morbid Angel record and is now trying his best to emulate it (don’t get me wrong it’s awesome). “Kollekting Koffin Nails” is a straight ripping vortex of hell. “Bloodless Epiphany” sounds like a body-snatched version of Pearl Jam playing extreme metal covers of their own songs.
The production and overall sound also need to be mentioned as I feel they’re perfectly balanced. Just dense enough to the point of not overwhelming the intricate instrumentation, the bass getting just enough prominence, especially doing great when the guitars switch to tremolo riffs. The varied vocals are placed in the middle of the mix, not too distant nor taking front, complementing the rest of the music perfectly. All in all, it’s a great production approach to KC’s dialectic of the regular and the strange, not quite giving in to either side.
The only thing that I’d maybe complain about here is the kind of short runtime sitting at about 40 minutes. I understand that some like their intense weird music at shorter runtimes, but this album runs so smoothly that I always feel like it ended too early (maybe I’d want to complain about the lack of a bombastic closer track then). I’d also mention the intro and outro tracks whose short bits of noisy ambiance feel kind of unnecessary, but then I’d venture into the realm of nitpicking.
Death metal had a bit of a resurgence lately with a lot of bands creating interesting, well-crafted and enjoyable music, often trying to innovate through unconventional songwriting. Khthoniik Cerviiks does all that, and does it as good as the best of them. With this in mind, their last album might’ve come a bit too early to ride the current wave, but if this one doesn’t secure them popularity and respect, it would be a damn shame because they fully deserve it.
1. KC Exhalement 4.0 (Welcome to HAL)
2. Odyssey 3000
3. Æequiizoiikum (Mothraiik Rites)
4. Δt (Recite the Kriitiikal Mæss)
5. Para-Dog-Son – Demagorgon
6. Kollektiing Koffiin Naiils (Délire des Négations Sequence 1.0)
7. Bloodless Epiiphany (Délire des Négations Sequence 2.0)
8. KC Inhalement 4.0 (Nothiing-Niihiil-Non)
Total Playing Time: 41:05