CD Review – Kekal – Envisaged

A conundrum to begin with – can a group with no official members still be a band? On the face of this release by Kekal the answer is a very definite “yes!”

Kekal is/was an Indonesian based band that formed in Jakarta in August 1995. The band sought to inject fresh ideas into a fundamentally extreme metal sound, laced with a punk attitude. The group began to gather influences from other styles of music and to make more progressive music that was distinctively Kekal. They were lauded as one of the first Indonesian heavy metal bands ever to make international inroads, so becoming perhaps the first, or one of the first, South-east Asian bands to make a mark globally. The break out release for the band was the fourth studio album, 1000 Thoughts of Violence, in 2003 which was a critical and sales success. The band’s progress continued as they managed to tour in Europe in 2004. Kekal continued to release albums in its unique style. Then on August 12, 2009, Kekal shed itself from all the human members. It was the start of a new era, a new way of approaching music making, that saw Kekal as a memberless band with former members and other musicians voluntarily collaborating to make new albums. Kekal has regularly released albums using this approach, and Envisaged is the latest one. All three of the former key-members left the band over a decade ago now, but they have decided to continue giving their contributions in music, artwork and audio production for Kekal’s future albums.

Kekal achieved something that it saw as ethical, an anti-authoritarian and specifically a non-hierarchical stance that is obviously anarchistic in nature. Kekal themselves say that it’s a “way of displaying human expressions without setting the limits”.

The list of influences on such an open-minded group is as wide as you are likely to find – King Crimson, Miles Davis, Duran Duran, Black Sabbath, Killing Joke, Depeche Mode, Voivod, Joy Division, Pat Metheney, Rush, Tangerine Dream, Discharge, Pink Floyd, Massive Attack and more…A massive list, all placed in a musical blender and blitzed so you can’t easily see any connection. The overall sound is bullish and volatile, ever changing and yet atmospheric. All done as anonymously as it is possible to be. There is no mention of the performing artists themselves at all.

So, does this all work or is it just a gimmick? It is definitely not the latter, for a gimmick to work it needs to have sales in mind and the contributing musician’s anonymity suggests they have little interest in fame. Gimmicks are meant to attract attention, publicity, or trade. Kekal doesn’t seem interested in those.

Kekal state that Envisaged “was specifically created to celebrate The Great Awakening of humanity and Earth’s Ascension to the higher octave of vibrational frequency. All the songs were written during the recording process, to capture the spontaneous moments of insights within each and every passage of creation. The music and lyrics represent a creative spiritual journey following continuous revelations regarding the current events on Earth that have been unfolding especially in the past few years. If observed and put together in a continuum, they signify the process of global collective awakening and purification towards humanity’s grand destiny: to transcend the matrix and rise beyond the construct of duality”. Heady stuff indeed!

Anthropos Rising starts off quietly enough before the guitar kicks in and it develops into something quite beefy, Born Anew is more proggy, with melodies and odd tempos. The Alchemy Creation is a much gentler piece full of atmosphere and feel, The Ascending Collective is the sort of song that might feature in a late night dystopian drama, Conduit of Light ventures more into electronica, while Anarchy In The New Earth boasts modern classical leanings before the kick of the song bites slightly discordantly but never too much so. Summer Harvest is a quieter flowing piece, Zero Point is a kind of weirdly reflective piece while Destiny Recalibration is doleful, gently rising, to paraphrase NF Simpson, to “a resounding tinkle”. The music swells and swells, then suddenly there is, well, nothing.

This is an album that makes you think. The concepts behind the lyrics might take you out of your comfort zone as might the music itself. This isn’t an easy album to listen to, but there are sections that will appeal to most tastes. It is rewarding to dip into the ethics behind the songs, edifying if you can gel with the philosophy. This is not the sort of album you will want to listen to while you are washing up or emulsioning a ceiling, but it is one that you need to spend time with to appreciate. It may not be traditionally prog-rock, but the band’s use of so many genres and influences, having songs of depth and thoughtfulness, dealing in so many atmospheres and tempos makes it extremely progressive rock. It has jarring sections, it has energetic rocking sections, and in so many ways it is a very demanding album. It is an idiosyncratic, quirky but rewarding listen.

1. Anthropos Rising

2. Born Anew

3. The Alchemy of Creation

4. The Ascending Collective

5. Conduit of Light

6. Anarchy in the New Earth

7. Summer Harvest

8. Zero Point

9. Destiny Recalibration

Line-up: anonymous

Release date: 15th July, 2022

Label: Kekal/Elevation Records

Formats: Digital (Download, Streaming) via Kekal, Physical (CD, Cassette) via Elevation Records

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