Pigeon-holing and conformity are two words that don’t seem to belong in the Khaidian vocabulary. But really, who wants to be like everyone else? With this firm philosophy in mind, the London based quartet have spent the best part of the past four years creating this particular sound that is something entirely unique. Somewhere down the rabbit hole of heavy metal and past the twisted branches of drum and bass, where whispers of electronica whip through the air, lies the home of debut album Penumbra, and boy is it an experience to behold.
Gripping album opener ‘Pearls Before Swine’ knocks you for six with a killer, heavy riff, instantly igniting the fire inside every die-hard metal fan. But then the unexpected hits: lightning strikes of electronica dance through the mighty percussion and guitar, elevating it into something three-dimensional, something exciting and new. This isn’t just metal. Vocalist Andy Hutton fuels the fervently raging flames with his passionate vocals, not just here but throughout the entire record. Particularly at the chorus of ‘Pearls Before Swine’, the lyrics begin to shine. The track trails into a slight indifference as it ends, but this can be overlooked as the foundations for something extraordinary have already been laid.
The hammering kick drum pelts insane amounts of life into this band, and remains the beating heart throughout Penumbra. As ‘Dominion’ drops with deliciously meaty and, in some cases high-pitch riffs, it seems that every which way you turn, there is something new to explored and a new sound to be appreciated. A niggling habit within these immense tracks seems to be having a section towards the end that has a monotonous and deflated feel that frankly leaves the track flat. But what’s twenty seconds away from perfection.
One thing you could never blame Khaidian for is being boring, for even the introduction of ‘Thrive’ gives you enough metallic morsels to feast upon for an entire week. True appreciation for their art comes with multiple listens. You can marvel upon the way it builds with the eerie peppering of electronica in the background as the soft drums beats with more ferocity with each passing second in the interlude. There is true professionalism here and the sense of bravery that is refreshing to listen to.
And as if you weren’t satisfied enough by this point, ‘Sense of the Spherical’ brings metal’s distant cousin drum and bass into the mix. The similar fundamentals of an imposing sound, that you can feel beating right in your chest belongs in both wonderful genres and this is why is marries so perfectly in this track. The combination brings a sense of the unexpected to Khaidian, which is something that is lacking in a lot of music these days: a dangerous feeling of diversity. Take a moment to appreciate ‘Evasion’ if you will: who knew that all you needed was a little bubble of trance in your breakdown to bring a song to life.
As the perhaps slightly oddly titled ‘Dramatic Professions of Martyrdom’ brings this album to a close, we are presented with an phenomenal crescendo which embodies everything that they stand for. Drummer Kris Perrin’s phenomenal efforts throughout this album have been outstanding, and you can’t help but feel slightly aching legs on behalf of him for it. And for the final time, we are delighted by wickedly erratic riffs from tech-metal/all round kick-ass guitarist John Hull. If the nuggets of trance and dubstep gold are all down to him, then we have no choice but to salute him. We are in the presence of diverse greatness from Khaidian, for Penumbra is an exceptionally polished record for a debut album. And while we wish more bands could be more daring like them, it’s almost an ironic blessing that there isn’t, because we wouldn’t be able to appreciate Khaidian in quite the same way.