Band: Kekal Album: Deeper Underground Country of Origin: Indonesia Genre: Progressive black metal/avant-garde metal Release Date: March 2018
That sinking feeling of guilt (and I get it disturbingly often) when you realize you’ve been missing out on an extraordinary band working in a genre you love isn’t fun. It’s even worse when you’ve heard the band mentioned a dozen times over the span of a decade, and still somehow failed to follow-up with an investigation. Kekal is this band, for me, and Deeper Underground is the sparkling catalyst of this realization.
Listening to Deeper Underground for the first time reawakened the edge-of-your-seat thrill I’ve only caught in glimpses since Emperor’s Prometheus: The Disciple of Fire and Demise. It’s the moment a riff or texture snags your attention and you stop what you’re doing, give yourself to the music, and realize “now here’s something I haven’t heard before.”
The comparison to Emperor doesn’t end there, and we could just as seamlessly add Enslaved to Kekal’s apparent bloodline as well. You’ll find Enslaved’s harsh, punching, and unusual black metal chord progressions in Deeper Underground, mixed with a healthy dose of electronic textures (increasingly and mysteriously called “dub” in the metal world), although these elements won’t strike you as pilfered. If anything, Kekal pushes the experimental envelope further than Enslaved, and to stunning results. Don’t let Kekal’s Bandcamp declaration of “punk roots” chase you away, metal heads; there’s no evidence of it in Deeper Underground.
Another fascinating claim this Indonesia-based collective makes on their Bandcamp site is that “Kekal has no official band members.” Be that as it may, Deeper Underground is consistently well-written, brilliantly executed, and a product of top-notch production that resists sounding excessively processed. Official band members or no, this album is clearly the result of careful composition, and this reviewer will certainly be visiting Kekal’s back-catalogue for more.
-Justin A. Burnett