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Kekal - The Painful Experience

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Well, Kekal's third full length is here and if you haven't heard the rumors, get ready to be surprised somewhat. This very talented Indonesia black metal band has experiemented greatly on this release and I'm sure that reactions will be mixed. I can see Kekal gaining a lot of new listeners with this album, but I can also see many people jumping ship. The biggest experimentation is in the vocal department. If one were to sit and count, you could probably come up with at least ten different vocal styles the band uses, sometimes four or five different in the same song. In many ways this is a good and refreshing addition, but on a couple songs it just really fails to connect with this reviewer. However, on repeated listens I'm getting used to the changes. The band goes from black metal screeches, to deathly growls, to angelic singing, to very high-pitched screaming that sounds kinda annoying to say the least. The music has just as much variety. At times you'll mosh. At times you'll dance. At times you'll probably just be confused. With doses of black metal, thrash, power, classic and even an industrialized bonus track, the band dishes out some very interesting tunes. The industrial track is basically a different version of "From Within" off of "Embrace the Dead". Extreme metal purists will probably throw fits with this release, but those with open minds will find much to latch onto. This is a disc that will require repeated listens and only then will everything begin to sink in. Even after sinking in though, the reactions will be mixed. I did not really like "The Painful Experience" after first listen, but it's growing on me and I'm starting to enjoy most of it. I have a friend, however, that says the more he listens, the more he hates it. Another friend has liked it from the start. It's all really gonna depend on how much you like variety in your music.

Songs like "Mean Attraction" and "Given Words" will probably remind long time fans why they first fell in love with Kekal. The title track is also a standout here that just bleeds with emotion. Lyrics that plead, "Does it
really matter now/In this age of technology/Will you forget my pain/and refuse your suffering", strike deep to the heart of the listener. That song, along with "The Monsters Within" reminds this man how ridiculously easy we have it here in America. The intro to "The Monsters Within" sounds like it could've came straight from a Crimson Moonlight album. While the intro to "Like There's No Other Way to Go" has a "Tooth & Nail Band" feel to it. Thankfully, when the band kicks in those fears are dispelled. My favorite songs on the album are the title track, "Mean Attraction", "Given Words", and "The Monsters Within".

The biggest improvement the band has made is the much better production. The emotion level on this album is also much greater, and musically, the band is as tight as ever. Lyrically, the band still stays very Christ-centered, but ventures into the horrible atrocities that are currently taking place in Indonesia.

Kekal has stepped out on a limb here and taken a big chance. It's not a complete success in every aspect, but it's good enough to keep me interested in hearing what they'll come up with next. Special kudos goes to Clenchedfist Records for being willing to step out on a limb and sign an extreme band like Kekal. The metal underground is bubbling over with great talent and this new relationship is just one of many indications that some labels out there do have good taste and they're putting action to their words.  (Review by Matt)

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