Sherman, Texas natives Kublai Khan have been around a while now, building momentum since 2010’s self-release EP “Youth War” before a pair of albums (2014’s “Balancing Survival & Happiness” and 2015’s “New Strength”) for Artery Recordings. A surprise signing to Rise Records in that they are far from any band that existed on the Rise Roster and don’t have the almost trademark “Rise” sound, the Texas beatdown hardcore crew are starting a new chapter with 2017’s “Nomad”.
Setting the tone from the very start comes (almost) instrumental beatdown metallic hardcore “Antpile”. Breakdown piled on breakdown with huge controlled bends to give us some killer moshability. It’s very much the anthem that the likes of Bury Your Dead have with “Losin’ It”. “True Fear” then kicks in with the full on “there is no justice” attitude of hardcore punk bands of the past while depicting police brutality. A killer slowed down break down with a return of the guitar squeals of the opener add a touch of brilliance and keep the sound going. “The Hammer” then takes us on the lyrical a dark road of a social anxiety issues while continuing the guitar attack. It’s a slightly slower number with more of a metal hit while also playing off a repeated momentary pause in the riffage to build atmosphere and variation. “8 Years” opens up the story telling the tale of someone who got 8 years for murder while everyone is weeping for the victim. Suddenly the earlier “no justice” vibes make more sense and the sense of anguish and deep seeded rage within the music have that extra weight of power. The play-offs in the vocals between frontman Matt Honeycutt’s throat ripping growl and guitarist Nolan Ashley’s bark are well placed. “Belligerent” then takes us down a depression themed road, starting off with a faster pace before utilising heavy slower breakdowns and a rhythmic lead part over the latter stages.
Continuing the socially conscious lyricism, “No Kin” takes on racism in a 2:43 battering ram of a song. It’s a blunt instrument of breakdowns piled on breakdowns with a momentary pause while a deep bass from Eric English rings out underneath Matt Honeycutt’s brutal bark. “B.C” then opens up the sound by adding some slow drum fills from Isaac Lamb with some guitar feedback before piling back into the riff attack. Raising the issues around organised religion lyrically while, the 90’s Hardcore overtones during the closing section of breakdown are a classy throwback to yesteryear. “Salt Water” gives up some slow and almost sludge like breakdown riffage aside a double kick drum pattern than pounds like a slow building whirl wind and creates a dark atmospheric tension. “Split” then returns us to the anxiety issue themes with Jack Hammer breakdowns designed to get a circle pit going and fists pumping. Closer “River Walker” then takes a more Crowbar esq approach, giving us that sludge metal sound that perhaps you’d not expect but is perfectly timed in the flow of the album. The almost spoken word, eerie rasping vocal is not something previously attempted before on the album and showcases another side to the band entirely. There is more than just beatdown metallic hardcore in this Texas wrecking crew.
With the exception of closer “River Walker”, Kublai Khan play to their strengths throughout “Nomad”. They may not push the envelope and try anything new or outside of their genre, but what they do create is an album honed to perfection. Anvil heavy, thick production, slabs of highly memorable and moshable riffage, pounding clean and crisp drum work. It’s all here and it’s everything that you could want from this kind of release. There is very much a sense that now is the time for this band to rise, like they have been waiting in the wings. Despite the socially conscious lyricism Kublai Khan are fun listen and a failure to headbang during any of the release would be unacceptable. [8/10]
2. True Fear
3. The Hammer
4. 8 Years
6. No Kin
8. Salt Water
10. River Walker