Release DetailsLABEL Open Grave Records
RELEASED ON 5/15/2007
The Habit Of Fire
posted on 6/2007 By:
Kekal has spent 12 years together as a band, originally getting together in Jakarta, Indonesia way back in 1995. Over the years they've endured some membership issues, eventually settling on the current trio of Jeff Arwadi (guitars/drums/ programming/vocals), Azharlevi Sianturi (bass/vocals), and Leo Setiawan (guitars/vocals). Kekal has flirted with jazz fusion, progressive rock, trip-hop, and electronic/ambient elements at various times in their career, and while the band shows some of all of that on The Habit of Fire, the majority of the non-metal influence herein comes from electronic music, including deceptively poppy synth lines.
The Habit of Fire really comes off as a collaborative effort between the three men involved; they all contribute both vocals and music which probably is the reason the band is able to pull in so much outside influence with so much cohesion. Throughout the album the band uses a ton of effects pedals and synths as well as other digital production methods, although rather than industrial tones it sounds more like stuff that could have come from an anime soundtrack. The vocals are also quite unique. The main voice is a nasally croon that sounds a bit like Les Claypool with more melody and less madness. In addition, the band also utilizes blackened screaming, some robotic cadences, vocoders, and other various effects which keeps the listener guessing throughout. In all honestly, there really isn't much of anything that is traditionally considered "metal" outside of a few brief flashes of blasting drums, heavily distorted screaming, and occasional chunky metallic riffing, however it would be impossible to say this album isn't heavy.
After a brief interlude, "The Gathering of Ants" introduces the band's synth laden attack right from the start, although the song's liberal use of double bass, shifting, heavy riffing, and distorted screaming makes for one of the most "metal" tracks herein. Next up is "Isolated I" which as of right now is my favorite song of 2007. Everything just sort of clicks on "Isolated I"; the whole song flows organically without forcing anything, yet manages to include HUGE catchy choruses with harmonized reverberated vocals, blistering lead guitar work including an impressive solo, complex rhythms, synth leads, vocoders... basically everything in the band's arsenal is on display and it fucking works.
"Manipulator Generals (Part I of Dictatorship)" is the first of two tracks that are broken up into movements. Its first being dominated by electronic beats and chanted vocals, while the midsection is an ambient noise excursion that drags on a bit, derailing the momentum the album had been building to this point, but the song is redeemed by a slowly building third movement that takes shape from a simple guitar line and adds dynamic time shifts and noodling lead guitars. "Historicity State of Mind (Part II of Dictatorship)" is the other tune broken into movements, this time only two, the first of which features a mellow proggy groove while the second has a darker trippy feel with heavily manipulated guitar lines and a simple backbeat.
The synth beats and guitar tone of the instrumental "Our Urban Industry Runs Monotonously" almost sound like a lost Ratatat song before they add creepy samples to give the song a darker feel. "To Whom it May Concern" is a stripped down, slow burner kind of feel but its simple rhythms are hypnotic and the build sucks you in and eventually releases you. The album ends with "Postlude: Saat Kemarau" another instrumental with clean leading guitars and synths, and perhaps the strangest influence yet pops up in the simple horns that sound straight out of The Cure's playbook.
"Free Association" is the only track herein I have a major issue with. It is another slow brooding track, although this one is doesn't ever lure the listener in and just sort of plods along at one pace without changing much through its five minute duration. Had they left out this track and the midsection of "Manipulator Generals" The Habit of Fire would have a much more consistent energy through its duration and knocked about ten unnecessary minutes off the albums mammoth 70-minute duration.
As it stands, The Habit of Fire is a progressive, adventurous album that almost transcends the metal tag altogether. It is living proof that music is only limited by the creativity of the artists. If there is any justice in this world, this album will bring Kekal some much deserved attention from fans all over the world.
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