KUBLAI KHAN has been kicking and screaming for nearly a decade now, but the unit's increasing profile sees them garnering significant attention and praise as of late. The band continues to forward a decidedly modern style that falls somewhere in between the realm of metallic hardcore, metalcore and extreme heavy metal on its fourth full-length effort: "Absolute". The Texan band truly marries the related but disparate styles that are heavy metal and hardcore. Again, while the band isn't new, per se, it is definitely a part of the new breed of pummeling metallic hardcore that also includes the likes of KNOCKED LOOSE and VEIN.
"Absolute" is chock-full of knuckle-dragging, caveman breakdowns encompassed by metal's relatively and regularly greater focus upon songwriting. A thrashing gallop can swell up to a death metal surge in no time, but the transitions are never senseless nor out of the blue. The twists and turns make sense and extrapolate from the preceding song sections in a logical and cohesive manner. This trait shines most notably on tracks like "Beneath A Crescent Moon" and "High Hopes".
But the fuse is lit right from the get-go. Opener "Armor of Goddamn" — a song title that may not mean anything to most people unless you grew up listening to Phil Anselmo's music — was likely chosen to front-load the album because of the way it serves as a teaser or primer for all that follows. The short track is vibrant, frantic and fresh in its delivery of all that is heavy. The spirit of classic Floridian death metal rears its ugly head on a cut like "Lower Level", while the barked and growled gang screams on "Boomslang", led by frontman Matt Honeycutt, remind us that modern, pummeling heavy music can be just as catchy as it can be ferocious. Said song's heavy crunch and simplistic but memorable breakdown — directed by guitarist Nolan Ashley and bassist Eric English while being anchored by impressive drummer Isaac Lamb — prove that KUBLAI KHAN is likely to make its mark in the minds of fans of bands as varied as HATEBREED, EARTH CRISIS, AGNOSTIC FRONT and TESTAMENT.
Elsewhere, the shameless, two-step glory of "Us & Them", a track boasting guest vocals from LEFT BEHIND's Zach Hatfield, will surely stir meatheads in the pit in a matter of no time. The onslaught is relentless, yet tastefully spread out and comprehensible, all the way through the final song: "Before It's Too Late", an impassioned and vitriolic song that's climactic and pointedly explosive. But as good as "Absolute" is, it isn't exactly mind-blowing. Only time will tell, but the album certainly is suggestive of greater things to come.