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I could simply tell you that Kublai Khan’s ‘Nomad‘ is heavy AF; packed with tough riffs, angry pit-calls and chunky grooves; is another solid mosh album for 2017’s vaults, and is as violent-sounding as one would expect from the band and just leave my review there. Because from that very sentence, you’d have an accurate summarization of the all the pre-prep you’d need before stepping into the ring with this Texan hardcore crew’s latest album. But as I’m not the majority of TheMusic.com’s oddly short online reviews, (seriously, they’re very short pieces) I ain’t settling for just one paragraph.
Taking what they first did on 2015’s decent ‘New Strength’ and further upping the ante, songwriting, anger, heaviness, as well as their solid riff-factor, Kublai Khan have truly become an indomitable hardcore act with their tight sophomore record. The beefy but familiar distorted hardcore chord progressions, the grid-rigid drum grooves and beats, the vehement pit-calls, the massive breakdowns, and the seething rage that boils just beneath the surface of each track awaiting the right time to explode; ‘Nomad’ is a domineering, more shredded version of ‘New Strength‘. (Which was the absolute best case scenario we were going to get with this release). The one-two freight train slam of ‘Antpile’ and the aggressively paced ‘True Fear’ are proof of this from the get-go; not-so-kindly informing any and all posers to remain at the door, or at least, on the edges of the raging pit.
To some listeners, vocalist Matthew Honeycut’s lyrics of self-loathing, external hatred, personal betrayal, and other soul-searching tales and anger at worldly issues may come off as macho-hardcore-frontman-cliche, simplistic or just being angry for the sake of it. However, there’s a scathing blunt level of honesty to the words that the frontman spits fort;, lyrics that are venomously delivered in a way that suitably matches the blunt force trauma of the remaining instrumentals.
Oh, and in terms of the sonics and instrumentation, this new effort really is just more of what Kublai Khan did on their debut record, just with a higher consistency of better songs featured. Yet it’s because of these rippin’ songs like the energetic ‘8 Years‘ or ‘The Hammer’ – an utter beast of a tune and one of the band’s best song’s by far – that nail their expected and generic yet still effective and impactful formula so goddamn well.
Of course, Kublai Khan never stray outside of their hardcore/metalcore/beatdown realm because, well… they’re just not that kind of the band. Okay, that’s not entirely true. Up until this LP’s ninth song (‘Split‘), ‘Nomad‘ is nothing but the score to one giant mosh pit, but that thankfully gets a nice little, final mix up with the standout closing track – ‘River Walker‘. ‘River Walker‘, driving the nomad-theme of this record home harder, is a sludgier, slower, somehow heavier slab of metallic hardcore than what this band usually offers up. It also sees the only real dynamic shift in the group’s chest-beating sound, namely the switch over to spoken word vocals and a wider, calmer sense of space that’s rarely, if ever, been seen in KK’s music before. (Kinda like Cursed Earth’s ‘External‘). While some will scoff and piss themselves at the thought that Kublai Khan may become a pop-metalcore band with cleans because of Rise Records, I just wait for the day that these guys deliver a record that nails their heavy side but also presents some more interesting, engaging, dynamic shades as well.
For that’ll be a real winner of an album.
And that’s it, folks. That’s ‘Nomad’; nothing more, nothing less. ‘Nomad’ doesn’t reinvent the wheel so much as it uses said wheel as a weapon against any and all who try to oppose it and it’s half-hour mosh workout session. Whether you crowd kill or bang your head to it, just know that Kublai Khan won’t be going anywhere anytime soon and you could do far worse when it comes to modern hardcore.
2. True Fear
3. The Hammer
4. 8 Years
6. No Kin
8. Salt Water
10. River Walker
‘Nomad’ is out now via Rise Records. Catch Kublai Khan in Australia this December with The Acacia Strain – all info here.