Artist: Kublai Khan
It’s the nature of mankind to search for the things that we feel make us whole. We dedicate a great portion of our lives—hell, some of us might donate their entire life—on a quest to find the things they’re missing: that which hinders them from being the best version of themselves they could possibly be. We wander, portions of ourselves left unfulfilled, gripping tediously at the things that make us happiest, tracing those threads back to what we can hope is their source. This same paradigm that defines mankind is just as true for our endeavors—especially our musical endeavors. The music we make tells our story; it’s the tale of our own search for that missing piece.
And on Nomad, Texan metalcore act Kublai Khan have finally found it.
From the very opening seconds of “Antpile,” Kublai Khan let loose with a vigor and vicious, aggressive energy the likes of which hasn’t been heard or felt from the band—or any band in some time. One half introspective tale of a band hellbent on finding the best versions of themselves, and one half socially-smart, painfully relevant and punishingly heavy metal, Nomad is nearly thirty minutes of proof that no matter what it is you’re looking for, finding it is more than worth the blood, sweat and tears split to do so.
Nomad starts with what might be one of the most outright violent and intense introductory tracks metalcore has ever heard—and after “Antpile” is done, Kublai Khan just keep swinging. Everything from the frenzied, animalistic and primal percussion from Isaac Lamb to the bold, thumping and thick bass from Eric English is geared to make the listener see red in mere seconds. Where “Antpile” succeeds in spades, songs like the riveting “8 Years” or “The Hammer” are full-bodied examples of Lamb’s punchy, pummeling percussion—or English’s rolling, ruthless bass. Together the duo create a foundation for Nomad that brings just as much raw, barren hardcore into the mix as it does head-bobbing, toe-tapping groove. Songs like “Belligerent” are just that, hammering away at the listener’s skull until it looks like a puzzle someone dumped out onto the floor—shattered and disorganized. Meanwhile, later cuts ease up on the gas just a little in order to build a more metallic and dynamic soundscape without sacrificing drive—songs like “Salt Water,” or the closing number, “River Walker,” serve as testaments to English and Lamb’s diversity just as they do for guitarist Nolan Ashley. Ashley’s work on the first three songs on Nomad are unparalleled displays of devastation, with the riffs on “The Hammer” or “Antpile” staying stuck in the listener’s head for days, inflicting more and more damage with each chug and pinch. Then, there’s “True Fear,” or “B.C.,” scathing and energetic tracks that draw ever so slightly more from a darker, more instinctual and intense aggravation—where Ashley’s fretwork works with English’s bass to be simply immense, flattening the listener underfoot like a mammoth made of lead.
Kublai Khan’s canvas of crushing, raw and driving hardcore infused with a sharp, riveting metallic streak is—once more—defined by the aggravated, blistering vocals from frontman Matt Honeycutt. Honeycutt’s distinct voice shreds through the dense and devastating breakdowns on songs like “True Fear” and complement the groovier, metallic tints of “Salt Water” excellently—especially his lyrics on “True Fear.” When Kublai Khan state that they “say whats on our hearts to express how we feel, who we are, what we stand for, and wont stand for, as well as the problems of our generation,” they mean it—and assisted by ear-spitting shrieks and burly bellows, they hit even harder than they ever have. “True Fear” is a great example, but it’s far from the only one, as songs like “The Hammer” keep it coming, as do anthemic tracks like “8 Years” or “Belligerent,” or, honestly, any song Nomad has to offer (save the instrumental closing number). Honeycutt might not be an ultra-dynamic, lustrous and polished Dickie Allen clone, but he is authentically himself, and it wouldn’t be better any other way. He brings a persona, gritty and human aspect to Nomad and Kublai Khan as a whole that allow them to stand out and stand stronger than ever, growing with their collective experiences on each release.
Nomad, while instilling images of incompletion, wanting and dismay in the listener’s head, is anything but any of those things. A remorseless and real display of heartfelt heaviness that hits like ten sledgehammers swung in unison, Nomad is a monster that cannot be tamed. Kublai Khan—led by Honeycutt’s thoroughly unique and remarkable vocals and lyrics, bolstered by a collective of crushing and dynamic musicians, take their already stellar discography and outdo themselves once more. Nomad is simply a release anyone who considers themselves a fan of heavy music living in 2017 should listen to—both by pure desire and moral obligation.
For Fans Of: Left Behind, I AM, Great American Ghost, Varials, Culture Killer
By: Connor Welsh