Khaima – Owing To The Influence

Rating: 3.5/5
Distributor/label: Barhill Records
Released: 2020
Buy Album: https://barhillrecords.de/produkt/khaima-owing-to-the-influence-cd/
Band Website: https://khaima-music.com/

BAND LINE-UP:

Sven Hill – Vocals,
Toufik Bougherara – Guitar,
Jo Rauber – Bass,
Andreas Becker – Keyboard,
Markus Scherer – Drums.

TRACKLISTING:

1. Blowback
2. Partisanship
3. Assimilation
4. Parasomnia
5. The Fox & The Grapes
6. Le Hirak
7. Collidoscope
8. Extrapolation
9. Sulpiride

REVIEW:

To the average listener, a band stating their influences won’t matter one jot, just so long as the music that is produced fits what the listener enjoys hearing. The fact that you may sound like LED ZEPPELIN on an off-day, use an eight-string guitar, and incorporate some Indian tabla-inspired drumming will go in one ear and out the other to most. Bottom-line: is the music you create any good? Strip away the esoteric influences and the flowery descriptions of one’s sound, and does that leave a piece of sonic art to note?

In KHAIMA’s case, the answer is a solid “yes” on debut album, ‘Owing To The Influence’. Their press kit may note the use of “Oriental guitar arpeggios”, “spherical effects”, and bass lines that “cross-references to the Afro-American music of the 60s and 70s”, yet that’s largely immaterial to Joe Soap who will be feasting on the debut work of a band that could comfortably lay claim to being TOOL’s little brother. Hell, the intro to “Parasomnia”, with its clean guitar hammer-ons, crisp drumming and haunting vocals, calls to mind their contemporary’s “Forty Six & 2”. Yet it remains uniquely KHAIMA.

Where a number of the bands they note as having an influence on them (i.e. ALICE IN CHAINS, KING CRIMSON, DEFTONES, MY SLEEPING KARMA, TOOL) would use a touch of the verse-chorus formula, KHAIMA eschew this for a more organic, living-and-breathing body of work. “Mighty oaks from little acorns grow” is the old saying, and it’s oddly apt for these Germans on ‘Owing To The Influence’. There is an obvious joke in there about their sound and writing having been influenced by the above bands, but where a song like “Blowback” breathes into life small but builds gradually into a number of returning riffs and motifs, it retains something only they can manage.

There is much to be said about following a more organic formula that allows songs to gestate to wherever they care to. The inherent risk is that songs can become bloated and over-indulgent; long-winded excursions through the band’s collective psyche and up where the sun don’t shine. It must be said that there is almost a touch of that on ‘Owing To The Influence’ in that it’s hard (or will be hard) to nail down sections of songs at times. But therein lies one of the album’s core strengths: it breathes and offers an incredible sense of light and shade.

From the early mysticism that “Blowback” demonstrates, comes a more bruising cut in “Partisanship”, with some hefty power chord riffs, whilst “Extrapolation” offers something of a brighter counterpoint to the earlier TOOL-esque “Parasomnia”, with its energetic drumming and bouncing bass groove. The quieter, clean passages bring the proceedings to low simmer, as vocalist Sven Hill croons low, before crunchy power chords erupt and add a sense of tumult and catharsis to the fold. While each song may not follow much of a pattern, their build and release works deliciously.

Casual observers may note that TOOL were listed last amongst the group of bands above, but their influence should not be understated. Where TOOL do incorporate their own formula, as well as more traditional songwriting tropes, the fact that framing devices like the Fibonacci sequence has featured before could indicate a level of hyper-analysis that does not seem present on KHAIMA’s debut. Yet that is to their benefit – ‘Owing To The Influence’ takes on a life of its own, and solidly delivers an interesting cut of modern progressive rock/metal. An enjoyable listen – just don’t leave it thirteen years for the next one, lads!

REVIEW BY LEE CARTER

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