Review: “Absolute” by Kublai Khan

Sherman Texas Metallic Hardcore heavy hitters Kublai Khan have become the literal nomads of their previous album title in touring the World over several times in support of it since September 2017. The quartets second major label outing for Rise Records “Absolute” is not only a highly anticipated one due to the sheer quality of “Nomad” but also one that could take them from support slots with everyone and anyone to an increase in headliners.

80 second album intro “Armor of Goddamn” sounds like you’re coming to after being knocked out before a throat ripping verse from Matt Honeycutt and a set of bludgeoning riffs leave you stumbling for the door after the bar fight. For those not in the know “Boomslang” takes its name from a large highly venomous snake in the family Colubridae, a reference to the lyric of a parasitic someone being sent down to punish Honeycutt for some unknown sin. The song isn’t a Nu-Metal power ballad though. This is Hardcore so it’s a track about rising above and survival. Piling stuccato riffage up in trademark fashion, a couple of choice squeals and barked backing vocals from bassist Eric English and guitarist Nolan Ashley add gravity. Continuing the acts of defiance “Us & Them” has a simple message. You crossed Kublai Khan and they’ve watched you cross their friends. Now it’s time for trouble. As you’d expect it’s a pummelling performance of hate with Nolan Ashley smashing out more stuccato riffage and thunderous breakdowns than you can shake a stick out. The guitar tone may be a more traditional Metallic Hardcore one that the more brutal crush of the one used on “Nomad” but the impression is that this has been done to ensure the band are separated from being tagged “Deathcore”.

“The Truest Love” is one of the albums longer cuts at nearly 4 minutes and while the song title might have you thinking that Kublai Khan have gone soft, you can push that thought from your mind. Taking a more Metal direction with their music and slowing things down a notch at the back end it’s a powerhouse as Honeycutt breathes fire. The tale of a broken home and a father walking away it asks the question “what does it take to be a man?” and is as intelligently thought provoking as it is heavy hitting. The palette cleansing fade allows “Self-Destruct” which features the album title in its lyrics to swing back in hard with energetic aggression. An old school radio sample and bass heavy almost funk sound with a hip-hop groove drum pattern from Isaac Lamb is an unexpected moment of quality and interesting way to break up the slab after mortuary slab of riffage. “Lower Level” has a riff designed of the circle pit and gradually slows down without quite touching in downtempo before stepping back up to unleash another ripping verse. It’s false ending with a pause break section is class and will catch you off guard the first couple of times around with the dead cuts. “Cloth Ears” puts the boot in with a marching drum pattern from Lamb kicking things into gear before the band launch head long into another short sharp shock of a tune. There are a couple of riffs you may have heard before in the rhythmic gymnastics but adding in some lead starts and drop offs gives it an edge while keeping the quality high.

The mix sees the drums and bass bigger and while some might see that as a gamble, it’s paid off in style with “High Hopes” tale of addiction being accompanied by some serious groove. A buried sample adds something not previously heard and 30 seconds of drums and feedback gives a sonic break for the final pair of pummelling cuts. On an album on which every single tune is a mosh pit starter “Beneath a Crescent Moon” is no different with a gritty guitar sound brining out the best in Matt Honeycutt’s gravelly vocal tones. The frontman who has some seriously brutal pipes is the all seeing eye despatching his band to do the dirty work of the contract killer. There is no nuance or subtlety or technicality. There doesn’t need to be. There’s a vocalist armed with intelligent socially aware lyrics and music that goes straight for the throat. This one has a sonic break with feedback that allows the drum groove to bleed through in the mix before brining back the meat tenderising thick riff. Repeating the album title in intertwined screams as the stuccato riffage tears at your ear drums like the sea eroding the cliffs “Before It’s Too Late” maintains the consistency of the album with some high grade explosives. Short sharp bursts of riffs make you want to move before closing on an almost white noise feedback moment that bookends the album nicely. Overcoming all that has been placed in their way, Kublai Khan have delivered [8/10]

Track listing

  1. Armor of Goddamn
  2. Boomslang
  3. Us & Them
  4. The Truest Love
  5. Self-Destruct
  6. Lower Level
  7. Cloth Ears
  8. High Hopes
  9. Beneath a Crescent Moon
  10. Before It’s Too Late

“Absolute” by Kublai Khan is out now via Rise Records

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