A few weeks ago, I reviewed IV by Grayceon. Now, we have another project made up of former members from Giant Squid, and in this case, Agalloch as well. Indie band Khôrada have come out with their debut album, Salt, and it’s a lot to chew. This is a band that’s difficult to categorize. They’ve been able to cultivate a unique sound, somewhere amidst post-rock, sludge, and black metal. Like the twisted, abstract face adorning its cover-art, Salt is perhaps summed up best in one word—tortured. It is in all ways somber, but often animated, captivating, and evocative.
With his guitar work, but especially with his vocals, Aaron John Gregory of Giant Squid lends Salt most of its flavor. Though not traditionally polished in any way, the vocals give this album its power. Gregory’s voice is absolutely lamenting, and agonized. Through screams, whispers, and everything in between, the vocals constantly project pain. He often shifts out of pitch, abandoning classic bravado for a sort of terrified quiver. This is a voice always on the verge of breaking. I’m reminded of Jonas Renske of early Katatonia, especially in the opening to “Glacial Gold.”
The production overall is deliberately unrefined. There is a lo-fi quality, pulling from indie and black metal mixing. It’s gritty—often blurred and blended. The song structure is vacant any form. You will not hear many discernible choruses or verses, and thus the album has an almost stream-of-consciousness or improvisational quality. The vocals are often layered in interesting ways, or ring out with a cavernous echo, as is best heard on the two minute interlude, “Augustus.”
Salt is an ever shifting, always original, journey. After the slow, lumbering middle tracks, we move into “Wave State,” which opens with some horns and then transitions into some thundering toms. This track, like most, perpetually fluctuates, always dragging you along with it. On both the opener, “Edeste” and “Wave State,” we hear the track fade out, only to ebb back for a final gasp. These faux endings create dynamic and unpredictable transitions from one track to the next.
The one stain on the album is the closing track, “Ossify.” It’s all around a much simpler track than the rest, often sticking to a four quarter note rhythm. I can only handle so many repeating quarter notes. It does pick up around halfway through, but for that first half, I can picture some emo kids dancing alone in their rooms at three in the morning, casually swaying back and forth. Not for me.
Ultimately, I think Khôrada have made a statement, and realized a vision with their debut release. You won’t find face-shredding guitars or complex rhythms on Salt, but you will find a wholly original, heart-wrenching monster of an album. This one is all about tone, and bucking convention. I could see post rock fans digging Khôrada, though their sound may appeal to black metal, emo, or even punk fans as well. Salt is its own beast, and that’s a good thing. I eagerly await what comes next from these fellas.
FAVORITE TRACK: “Glacial Gold”
RELEASE DATE: 7/20/2018