Dear Chester, I only realised a few days ago that it’s nearly been a year …
If ever the apocalypse needed a soundtrack, look no further that Desolation. From the doomed depths of Denver, Colorado, Khemmis still thrive in a world of poetic oblivion and metal riffs.
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Their third album heralds the cry of something forever doomed. Society? Landscape? The album paints all kinds of pictures and for vocalist Phil Pendergast that kind of visual inspiration from their new sound is all he could hope for. “It’s interesting, Desolation is probably a pretty apt descriptor and I’m glad it comes across that way.
“In the period since Hunted came out  the whole band has experienced negative events in our lives. Also culturally and throughout the world, there’s been a lot of negativity come to the forefront. There’s a lot of anger here, a mix of listlessness, grief—on my part especially—related to how I’ve been mentally coping the last 18 months. This is a reaction to the anger a lot of us feel about the world right now.
“Definitely it alludes to this collective loss, but more than our previous albums, there’s an element of anger and desperation to what we’re trying to convey.”
Pendergast’s soul is exposed by his candid speech, and one word springs to mind as he describes Desolation’s portrait of angst and loss–resolution. While the narrative may tell a story of harder times, the final track, From Ruin, is where Khemmis resolve many issues literally and spiritually. “I actually find From Ruin to be a moment of resolution just because of the personal feelings I have and was trying to express in the lyrics,” says Pendergast soberly. “It’s interesting because we never have a song that’s even remotely positive on Absolution  or Hunted and that’s not something you see in metal all, especially in doom metal.
“On that song, it’s a reflection of being at the very bottom of things, being out of hope and pleading for something to let you carry on and actually finding that in yourself, learning to accept loss and grief and anger.
“The last line of the song is I find the strength to carry on. After the second chorus of this song, it’s overly positive. I think there’s a lot I’d like for people to get from the lyrics.”
With Desolation, we wanted to make a statement that this is metal and it should be appreciated as such, by including elements of everything we’re influenced by.
While Desolation overall may seem like the most hopeless album Khemmis have written, things really turn in From Ruin, hope and glory glimmer in the last chorus, Pendergast tenderly recites, “Sure as the spring casts a light on the snow, I have awakened to the ashes anew, They’re burning away though I yearn to hold on, knowing that I can’t accept this life …” Beautiful.
It’s strange how once a song reaches the listeners for whom it was intended, despite the words, melodies and structure always remaining the same, its many interpretations suddenly mean the song becomes many different things for different people. “That’s the best thing about songwriting,” Pendergast says, steadily. “One of the things I’m hesitant to be too direct about is what I’m trying to say with something.
“I love for people to be able to interpret things in their own way–sometimes the artist giving away what they were talking about sort of ruins it for me.”
Desolation provides a place marker in time for Khemmis. In concluding this album, Pendergast has propped himself up with a sturdy pole of determination, ready for the next chapter. “Something we tried to do with this album was to really completely ignore any kind of distinction between what people might think of as and what we were actually doing musically.
“We’ve never thought of ourselves as a doom band, though it makes sense for us. We’ve always seen ourselves as being more inspired by rock ‘n’ roll and classic heavy metal. With Desolation, we wanted to make a statement that this is metal and it should be appreciated as such, by including elements of everything we’re influenced by.”
“The album isn’t quite as one dimensional as it may seem with a lot of metal, especially this type of metal where it tends to wallow in one type of emotion, but for me, the hardest part was to be willing to let go of that and try to do something more positive. But it was important for me.
“’Unresolved’ is a good word for it–it’s neither positive, nor negative. I would almost hope the ending would have people experience some level of catharsis that I experienced when we were recording it, when I was writing it. I felt powerfully impacted, personally.”