Artist: Kublai Khan
When it comes to modern metalcore, arguably no other acts unleash more aggression on an organic level than Kublai Khan. The pride of Texas heavy music has been a staple in the eyes and the ears of the masses for the better half of the last decade. From their humble beginnings with 2010’s Youth War EP, the band instantly came out with both clenched fists swinging for the throats of whoever listened. Following suit in 2014 with their debut LP, Balancing Survival and Happiness, Kublai Khan’s sheer power and unrelenting sonic force became impossible to ignore throughout both the national and international metalcore circuits. The band has since released two more full-length records, New Strength and Nomad, which have only further cemented their legacy at the top of the world of modern heavy music; but their latest and greatest effort only goes to show that they are showing no signs of slowing down any time soon.
Absolute–due out Friday, October 4th courtesy of Rise Records–is exactly that: an aptly-named and objectively powerful show of force that is bound to stand the test of time. Starting from the get-go with “Armor of Goddamn”, the listener is equally brutalized by crushing guitar tones as they are pounded into submission by the percussive precision of the entire ensemble. The intensity is matched only by that of the band’s vocalist, Matt Honeycutt, who possesses one of the most iconic and identifiable voices in metalcore. Honeycutt has always been known for his lyrical delivery packing just as hard of a punch as his sonic fortitude, and the first words out of his mouth in this track are sure to light a fire in the hearts of whoever his message reaches.
After this short-but-sweet introductory assault, “Boomslang” showcases a side of the band we as listeners have yet to hear; jaw-dropping triplet grooves. Guitarist Nolan Ashley truly outdid himself with this one, proving definitively that conventional norms don’t always leave the biggest lasting impact. Picking things right back up in true Kublai Khan fashion, we arrive at “Us & Them”. We are greeted by the warm, familiar sound of fast two-steps, pissed-off one-liners, and tasteful pinch-harmonics before standing face to face with a very welcome guest vocalist, none other than Left Behind’s Zach Hatfield. Continuing beyond the ragnarok that is “The Truest Love”, and through the album’s earworm of a lead single “Self-Destruct”, bassist Eric English and drummer Isaac Lamb catapult us deeper, literally into a “Lower Level” of bends, chugs—even silence—that are sure to leave the listener breathless.
On the subject of transitions and album flow, I have the utmost appreciation for the care and attention that was put into placing “Cloth Ears”, “High Hopes”, and “Beneath a Crescent Moon” in direct succession of each other, ultimately leaving you with only enough time to catch your breath. The final phase of the onslaught, “Before It’s Too Late”, is chock-full of vertebrae- snapping, thunderous rage and serves as a chilling closer for a masterful display of emotion.
Absolute is a testament to the strength found in the depths of life. It is an album for the beaten, but not broken; for the bruised, the downtrodden, and the vulnerable who still find it in themselves to take their own first steps day in and day out. There is a very real, very human voice telling the story of perseverance through pain and spitting in the face of your so-called masters. Such a voice demands to be heard, will not be ignored, and couldn’t possibly be forgotten in the foreseeable future, so be prepared to have this album in your permanent rotation for the next few years.
FFO: Knocked Loose, The Acacia Strain, Spite, Demolisher