In music, predictability is usually a bad thing. But when one lays eyes on the album cover for Kongh’s new album, Sole Creation, a maelstrom of thoughts come to mind: epic, badass, heavy. And friends, lovers of heavy music, aficionados of drop-tuned harmonic splendor—I am here to report that Kongh delivers. You can judge this book by its cover.
In music, predictability is usually a bad thing. But when one lays eyes on the album cover for Kongh’s new album, Sole Creation, a maelstrom of thoughts come to mind: epic, badass, heavy.
And friends, lovers of heavy music, aficionados of drop-tuned harmonic splendor—I am here to report that Kongh delivers. You can judge this book by its cover.
Kongh, which perhaps unsurprisingly hails from Sweden—the country where metal bands spawn from damp basement floors—brings enough low frequencies to the table to be considered a sludge band in every respect.
But the band also doesn’t hesitate to bring in elements from other genres, though primarily those close to them in name. While I would classify Kongh as a sludge band if I were held at gunpoint, it’s just not that simple, and you metalheads know what I’m talking about.
Though genres like black metal, sludge metal, progressive metal and doom might sound similar to the layperson, they are not at all similar in style.
The most adventurous bands in metal combine three of these (at most); bands like Ulver and Oxbow max out the choices very effectively.
Kongh employs a fundamental understanding of musical combinatorics and uses all four, to the listener’s delight.
Sure, some tracks have some genuine down-tuned blues riffs, like the record’s opener and title track, “Sole Creation.” Others have a Thou-esque black-blooded crunch to them that redefines heavy, like the last couple minutes of “Tamed Brute.”
You may find yourself adrift on the prog-metal riffing that fills “The Portals,” or you may choose to walk the barren streets of post-bar-time Portland while completely rearranging your headspace by taking in the dreary post-rock twang of “Skymning.”
Each song contains elements of the others, and it should come as no surprise that these four are the only tracks on the record, with the shortest clocking in at over nine minutes.
If you’ve ever listened to “One More Step and You Die”-era Mono or This Will Destroy You (and enjoyed it), then you’re really in for a treat, as dynamism runs in Kongh’s DNA. Each track is filled with it.
Unlike some metal bands that try to force the hand of swooping dynamics, Kongh glides through them effortlessly. And when you paint on as large a canvas as Kongh does on each track, there’s a lot of room for variation.
Perhaps this is best demonstrated by the leadoff title track. Before the halfway point, you’re treated to a slippery glissando between a gauntlet of metal genres.
Right away, Kongh provides death-metal drumming, black-metal vocals and sludgy riffs before paring them down, rearranging the elements and pouring syrupy prog-esque vocals over the top.
Four metal genres are covered in the first three minutes, woven together in a fine, seamless tapestry.
Usually when bands try to string together multiple genres, some things just don’t add up. The shoehorning of one kind of music into another’s box isn’t always flattering.
The process is akin to connecting a guitar to an amplifier, if you will, with several cables of different connector types: Sure, you’ll get a signal from the speakers, but there is substantial fidelity loss. Kongh suffers no such loss.
Speaking of fidelity, the production on this record deserves special mention, because mastering jobs on metal records don’t seem to get much credit unless they sound like they were recorded in a highway rest stop, tiled floor and all—and really, that’s a pretty effortless feat.
Every last noise on Sole Creation sounds like it was lovingly curated by an actual pointy-hatted, long-bearded wizard. The guitars are wonderfully saturated when it matters—far more saturated than any other metal record I’ve heard in recent memory. This makes the riffs crunchier—they bleed with character and harmonics.
Every clean note on the record is enunciated from brittle, reverb-balmed lips. The drums sound cavernous and punchy, and the vocals are mixed slightly below the other instruments, which gives the record an incredible listenability.
It sounds like a live performance, masterfully sculpted. Simply put, the production on Sole Creation is absolutely flawless.
Honestly, it’s hard to find a weak point on the record. There just isn’t one.
Every song is the perfect length for the magnitude of the scope, there aren’t enough to consider Sole Creation a boring metal opera, the production is as close to perfect as you’ll ever hear on a metal record and the music is just genuinely good—it’s innovative, exacting, honest, challenging and fun.
Most of those words aren’t usually associated with metal records, but then again, most metal records aren’t Kongh’s Sole Creation. Not everyone does what Kongh does, both literally and figuratively.
Frankly, Sweden has redefined metal yet again, and now’s your chance to get in on the ground floor. Go out and buy this, immediately.