While Kublai Khan’s 2015 rager ‘New Strength’, wasn’t exactly a record that screamed ‘bring me sunshine’ in large doses, bangers like ‘Life for a Life’ and ‘Hunger’ possessed a swing that one may dare to consider fun. On their third full-length, ‘Nomad’ the Texan quartet deliver their crushing groove-laden metalcore as an outlet for inner rage and despair.
This doesn’t mean that ‘Nomad’ is without any kind of turbulent flow. As soon as mood-setting intro ‘Antpile’ chugs to life, the rhythm section’s ability to provide chaotic impact through linear melodic patterns returns as fresh as ever. Wach moment guitarist Nolan Ashley lets out an isolated riff it lets listeners’ blood boil as they prepare for the full band to enter phase mosh.
This catch and release of listeners’ anticipation in Kublai Khan’s songwriting means every time the band go all in, an energetic reaction is guaranteed. And at only 27 minutes, not a moment is wasted, save for closer ‘River Walker’ which revolves around snail-paced grooves reminiscent of riffs from Down’s ‘Nola.’
Perhaps the biggest wow factors of ‘Nomad’ comes from Honeycutt’s lyricism, and the depth it reaches. ‘Pure Fear’ is a shocking commentary on abusive treatment by the American Police Force (“Look around you, unarmed men shot in cold blood, while a kid with a dime bag serves more time than a rapist”). While ‘8 Years’ addresses the vehicular homicide that killed bassist Eric English’s brother, climaxing in tension as Honeycutt calls out the drunken driver “Thomas Thorn, this one’s for you”, adding “no forgiveness”.
Kublai Khan aren’t the kind of band to waste their time trying to be something they’re not, and if you’ve been a fan of their Martyr AD/Pantera hybrid up to this point, you’re going to have a wonderful time spin-kicking to ‘Nomad’. But there’s a different feeling to this than ‘New Strength’, one that is more sinister, open and willing to shine a light on the horrors of everyday reality. It’s a record that wears its heart on its sleeve and it’s a more gripping record as a result.
‘Nomad’ by Kublai Khan is out now on Rise Records.
Words by Andy Davidson (@AndyrfDavidson)