If nothing else, I Klatus were always going to be an interesting premise. Hailing from Chicago and made up of Lair Of The Minotaur drummer Chris Wozniak, former Indian and Yakuza bassist John Bohmer (it also marks the final recordings of Tariq Ali, late bassist of Chicago sludge mob Couldron) and artist Tom Denny on guitar and vocal duties, it’s one of those projects where they could have delivered anything and you could have bluffed some way of tying it to their respective pasts. Kether, their third full-length though their first in a half-decade, simplifies the job somewhat by taking the relentless pound of LOTM and bridging the gaps with plenty of cross-genre weirdness, thus achieving the hallowed goal of being accessible to older fans yet alien enough to introduce said fans to something way out of their comfort zones.
This perverse aim of giving heady doses of the familiar and then slapping you about the face with something straddling the bizarre and the sublime is introduced early, with first track ‘John Of The Network’ letting rip with a colossal surge of sludge-fuelled nihilism, Denney’s choked voice infinitely nastier than anything you’d find on what passes for death metal these days; then, it abruptly vanishes and in its stead is a solemn, reflective instrumental passage, the sharpness of the contrast executed with such a casual air that it immediately sets the listener on edge, never able to settle in to any one mood for fear of it being abruptly snatched out from under them once again.
So begins a complex spiral of light and shade, of insidious interludes and smoky Abyssinian melodies, of blackened chaos and distorted samples that seem beamed direct from the subconscious of David Cronenberg. The hellish ‘Flailtank’ is borderline crust-BM, the barbaric snare drubbing coupled with a production that emphasis the upper and lower portions of the spectrum and leaves out the filling, the lo-fi monstrosity fading out into a dark vortex of distorted samples, the relay of some long-forgotten broadcast relayed by aliens and warped by time and space. As things progress, their songs begin to throw in nods to times even further back, peppering their assault with melodies from the days of Set and Anubis, shamanistic chants and the violent cacophony of war drums completing the time-travel process; others seem to go earlier yet, ‘Tree of the Sephirot’ filled with barbaric and primal cries of a pre-civilisation tribal gathering.
Despite all the weirdness this is still a sludge album, through and through. Filled with detours and diversions, there is always a return to an overwhelming heaviness and to thick, bass-heavy riffing that you can bang your head mercilessly to. It just also happens to be a very demanding one, requiring the utmost attention to every shift and manipulation that it can feasibly throw at you, with momentary lapses in concentration leaving you lost and adrift. It’s a brutal odyssey that finds its destination with ‘Dark Commitment to the Ceaseless NON’, an achingly gorgeous piece of sparse, lilting guitar and tender female vocals that is the ideal comedown from this eventful, sprawling trip. Until the last minute, anyway. Because then it goes heavy and mental again. And it has Bruce Lamont (Yakuza) throwing in a bonkers, shrieking saxophone solo. Why? Because weird is what they do, and they do it very well.
Label: Self Released
Scribed by: Dave Bowes