Released: 2001, Clenchedfist Records
Reviewer: Nathan Robinson
I didn’t know what to expect of Kekal when this disc arrived in my mailbox. I had never heard of this band before, and the packaging gave no clues to the type of music they would play, aside from the band photo, where each member is wearing a rock shirt: Rush, SOD, and Iron Maiden. My first listening experience ended during the middle of the second song. What I heard was some pretty intense and somewhat symphonic black metal, a kind of music that just doesn’t do anything for me, although I do appreciate its validity within the realms of metal. But subsequent spins of THE PAINFUL EXPERIENCE revealed more. What I hear is not too bad, but not that great either. Their execution and songwriting skills are decent, adding symphonic and classic/power metal touches to raw blazing black metal. Blast beats and keyboards are present, but they are very far from over-saturating the music, which is a good thing. The guitar tone sounds very Scandinavian, and just heavy as hell. I love it! And they come up with some pretty damn good riffage. But I really don’t appreciate the drum programming. While for the most part the programming sounds fine (after all, so many metal bands trigger the fuck out of their drums anyways), during some of the blasts, snare rolls, and fast cymbal work, it is all too obvious the drums are fake. But I can get past this. Listening to bands like Necrophagist, Symbyosis, and Oxiplegatz have softened my ears to drum programming (although it still sucks).
But what really turns me off are the vocals. While some of the acid-drenched blackened screams and clean singing parts are tolerable, the rest of the vocal styles are just horrible and unlistenable, as if they are making a joke of themselves. Perfect example: the song “Like There’s No Other Way to Go”. A damn fine song, sounding like a strange mix of Nightingale, Judas Priest, and Ratt. The blackened vocals are great, especially with the slower riffage and lack of blast beats. But the higher, clean, wanna-be King Diamond vocals are absolutely horrid and ruin the song completely. Sounds like a 2-year old crying.
I have never heard another band like Kekal. They are unique and interesting, and also intriguing considering coming from the distant land of Indonesia. And I give them much credit for coming up with something new, although not entirely original, obviously drawing from many influences including the aforementioned bands on their shirts. If it wasn’t for the terrible vocals, which earns them the “3” I gave them, I would recommend this album to those metalheads that like a variety of metal music from black to progressive. Check out their web site at http://www.kekal.cjb.net/