Blast From The Past: Khoma – The Second Wave (2006)

For fans of:  Cult of Luna / A Perfect Circle / Muse / Radiohead

‘Supergroups’ often fall deep into the trap of being overhyped by the media and fans and thus, at times, fail to reach the heights expected once the music is actually released.  Khoma managed to escape any real hype and ended up releasing one of my favourite albums of 2006.  The Second Wave is an album that passed by without even a blink from the mainstream.  It always seemed bizarre to me that an album that fits so well into the Indie trend (yeah don’t stop reading here. Trust me) that was big at the time would not receive any of the recognition that it deserves.  It suddenly hit me one day though; unlike other bands in that genre, Khoma are heavy.  They are very heavy and experimental.  This definitely helps them stand out from their contemporaries.  It’s almost a crime that Khoma have never got the attention they deserve, but to those that open their eyes to their music, Khoma provide something really special.

Khoma was formed from members of Cult of Luna, The Perishers and Deportees coming together in order to experiment with complete musical freedom, creating music different from their own perspective bands.  Whereas remnants from those bands can be heard in The Second Wave (in particular Cult of Luna), the music is different enough to not fall into the trap of being too similar to the members’ other bands; another trap which a lot of ‘supergroups’ fall into.

Read on to see what I make of their first album, The Second Wave, released back in 2006.

Khoma – The Second Wave (2006)

Opening track, The Guillotine is a focused moody track that gradually grows towards a climax of thrashing guitars and pounding drums.  The drums plod along in a 4/4 time signature with a harsh, but vacant simple 5ths chord pattern playing.  Subtle violins back up the music and add extra harmony to the track.  Singer Jan Jamte’s vocals are beautiful and soft, but hint at the climatic music that is yet to come.  The track sets the tone for the rest of the album, displaying the epic, but controlled sound of The Second Wave.

The Guillotine builds to its height of musical climax and leads nicely into the second track, Stop Making Speeches.  The verses in this track incorporate powerful rhythms, with muted guitars giving a very dark and moody sound.  The chorus kicks into full explosion with the commanding vocals of Jan Jamte, prevailing over the heavy use of guitars, with haunting magnificence.

When Khoma are at their heaviest, instrumentally they are not a hundred miles away from Cult of Luna.  Unlike the music of that band however, the song structure here is relatively traditional in its approach.  Whereas Cult of Luna like to make use of simple and often repetitive ideas, progressing these and evolving the music throughout the song, Khoma make use of the heavy sounds of Cult of Luna but focus their ideas much more into a more accessible structure.  Despite this, Khoma still manage to evolve many of their songs to an explosive climax with relative ease thus displaying their great ability in song writing.  The sound here is much more focused giving it a great appeal.

As the enchanting Medea builds to its peak of musical immensity, a gentle guitar motif remains like a vestige left over from a vicious war.  This guitar line moves gently into the sublime Hyenas:  A track that wouldn’t be out of place on a Coldplay or Radiohead album.  A soft piano line is played, with powerful guitars adding depth to the track with delay effects used to add great emotional influence to the track.  The guitars are not too intrusive, and it is the vocals here that are really brought to the forefront.

Although the songs on this album can be soft and gentle at times, they often pick up the pace again.  The line often begins to blur between soft and heavy, with Khoma wielding their musical output with great proficiency.  Despite comparisons to the British indie scene, there is a prominent feeling of buoyancy that flows throughout the record.  In addition Khoma are far heavier instrumentally than bands like Muse, Coldplay or Radiohead.  The beauty with The Second Wave is Khoma’s ability to create such emotional poignant songs that range across the full spectrum of human feelings, without resorting to simple clichés.  The album never feels too depressing, with the dominant uplifting sensation appearing throughout the album.

The real power in this record I find is that Khoma are so difficult to try and fit into categories or genres.  The Second Waves is both genuine and escaping of any generic clichés.  Sometimes “less is more” and the same can be said about this record.  Whereas Cult of Luna makes use of powerful harsh screams, the use of melodic clean vocals throughout this record really helps Khoma get their message across.  The Second Wave defies the usual triviality seen in heavy music and offers something unique and original in this genre typically flooded with clones.  If you want to try something a bit different, something that is both heavy and emotional without resorting to cheap clichés, then this may just be the album for you.

Final Verdict: Mesmerizing


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