First, a metallic shriek vibrates through your headspace, like the echo of a fallen civilization, tugging at your consciousness. Then the brutal rumble of structures erased brick by brick, systematically, with cosmic irony. You’re there, high above, as the havoc ensues. Then the rhythmic pounding of waves washes the site clean, as a storm brews in the distance, forged from sorrow, leaving you in awe. Welcome to the soundscapes of Kalpa.
RELEASE DATE: 28 January 2015 LABEL: Self-released
My pompous introduction aside, Kalpa is a fresh post-metal four-piece band from Athens, Greece, brandishing a robust aesthetic and set of influences, an enthralling musical blend of dynamism and moroseness which reaches quite a rare level of balance and poignancy. Formed in 2013, it is obvious that the band has had ample time to nurture their sound, let it grow organically, patiently, honing it to something akin to a fierce blunt instrument, a formidable positive conduit for rage and aggression. Indeed, “Sequences*” hardly sounds like a debut album at all, having the proficiency and intensity of a far more mature group of musicians than the band’s history would lead one to believe.
The songs are dense, thundering and clear cut, albeit somewhat monotonous in their development. There are no great meditative, ethereal stretches on this record; the band seems to forgo the quiet-loud-quiet swells with which more prominent exponents of the genre have familiarized us, opting instead for a more relentless approach to songwriting. It is in this constancy that Kalpa’s sludge/doom roots become apparent: the songs themselves emerge slowly, like nebulous crystals slashed by explosions of color and variety, but within strict limits and with very clear guidelines. It is a pleasure to behold such a mineral sound, something so strong and unyielding gaining momentum before your very eyes. Kalpa’s music is much more emotional fuel than it is intellectual puzzle; much like fossil fuels, it is a simple formula locking within enough rage, power and ferocity to move mountains and ignite the blood in one’s heart.
The sturdy, geometric way the songs on “Sequences*” are constructed makes the album go by very fast on the first few listens, and it takes a bit of time to really get attuned and start appreciating the various textures and crevices hiding in plain sight. One remarkable aspect of the record is that the lack of vocals does not diminish the tremendous impact the music has, as the instruments are played with such gusto and with such a sense for narrative that the textural input of growled vocals almost becomes superfluous. Instead, the focus falls on the amazing rhythm section, especially the bass lines, which are simply fascinating in their dynamism and proficiency, treading the jagged line between groove and pounding menace, between solo and support with staggering ease and authenticity. The drumming is also very robust, delivering some truly stellar moments, especially on “Waves Will Rise Over Babylon”, the second track of the album. Unfortunately, I felt the sound of the drums was somewhat muddled in production, depriving the instrument of the attack it deserved, restricting it to a sort of tectonic spectrum, more rumble than oomph. On the other hand, this drum sound is in tune with the band’s dark, nebulous aesthetic; I only feel it might be a bit too in tune.
There’s something equally poetic and pragmatic about Kalpa’s music, a quality which makes it appropriate for an intense work-out session or an hour of vicarious rage release alike. But make no mistake, “Sequences*” is an album which can stand on its own, can grab you by the temples with both hands and overwhelm your attention with great power and ease. I for one will be keeping an eye out for future Kalpa releases, filled with curiosity at their development after such a high benchmark. Hopefully, I’ve convinced you to do the same.