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Khôrada’s “Salt” Overflows With Good Ideas

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Mankind has doomed itself through its greed and ignorance — this is the central idea that the compositions of Khôrada’s debut album Salt revolve around.

We are due, sooner or later, for another event of mass extinction. With a biting, misanthropic bent, vocalist and lyricist Aaron John “AJ” Gregory paints a world destroyed by the hyper-consumption of its human inhabitants and which goes barren before eventually being swallowed by ice and waves. Gregory’s lyrics are concerned with global issues like consumerism and the unsustainability of current capitalistic models. These are problems which he approaches with a sense of futility, emphasising the fundamental insignificance of mankind in the world we live in. As far as he is concerned, Mother Earth feels it’s time for another mass extinction event, in order to protect herself from the rapacious abuse that mankind enacts upon her. His lyrics convey weariness, rage and sadness, as he witnesses the state of the world that we live in.

Structurally and texturally, Salt offers a myriad of approaches to and impressions of metal and rock. It is sprawling and epic in scope, with every track other than “Augustus” running longer than six minutes. Khôrada divert from conventional instrumentation for the genre, utilizing haunting trumpet lines to haunting effect on “Edeste” and “Wave State” and string backings to intensify the melancholy and weary atmosphere of “Glacial Gold.” While Khôrada are certainly not short of ideas musically or compositionally, there are times that Salt feels overwhelming and somewhat bloated as a whole, attempting to do so many things within a single album. However, they implement ambient transitions to connect tracks, assisting them with maintaining the atmosphere they cultivate and making the album more digestible amidst its warm production.

The instrumental performances on Salt are nothing short of exceptional. Don Anderson, Aesop Dekker and Jason Walton (all former members of Agalloch) are clearly comfortable playing with one another. Dekker is able to incorporate a variety of drum styles and approaches to a single song and Walton acts as a strong base for his more experimental moments; together, they create a formidable and groovy wall of sound. Anderson’s guitar work has standout moments in almost every track; flexible enough to both lead the music and support the other instruments as needed, he solos, riffs and arpeggiates competently to create both texture and melody. While Salt is clearly not an Agalloch album, Khôrada are able to introduce elements typical of Agalloch’s work like blast beats and guitar breaks into the music in a way that feels organic, melding with the other musical ideas present. The instrumental sections are an excellent showcase for Khôrada’s musical aptitude.

In terms of vocals, Gregory utilises a variety of approaches like cleaning singing, occasional gutturals, and harsh yells — all fairly typical of the style he developed with Giant Squid. His performances, while diverse in approach both harmonically and texturally, seem to struggle at times to match the rhythm section’s huge wall of sound. As a result, Gregory is often bellowing, with his vocals doubled on the octave and often in harmony; while this works at times, it can also sound forced when the band reaches moments of climax. His strongest performance is on the restrained and moving “Augustus,” where his expressive vocals are the focus of the track instead of competing with the instrumentation.

Labyrinthine and cerebral, Salt is a mammoth debut by Khôrada. The band have forged an immense and original style of both playing and composition and the instrumental sections in particular reflect a strong musical chemistry between the members. Combined with its existential and misanthropic narrative, Salt sustains an esoteric and disturbing atmosphere, as Gregory forces us to reflect on mankind’s relationship and future with Planet Earth. At times, however, Khorada have too many ideas for their own good; the songs on Salt function better as individual vignettes than they do as pieces of a whole, failing to cohere comfortably as a full album. Nevertheless, they have still created something that is entirely their own on Salt and its performances and lyrical concepts are a seriously impressive introduction to the band.

—Emily Mai Marty

Salt is out July 20th on Prophecy Productions.

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