Kehlvin are back.
If you don’t grasp the magnitude of that statement, read it again, but slowly. If then you still struggle to comprehend its significance, maybe you’re just too cool for this particular musical world. Either way, they’re indeed back after six excruciatingly long years of hiatus that started, somewhat abruptly, soon after the release of their split with Fleshworld in 2015. My passion towards the band and their doings has been burning bright for the last decade or so, and they’ve stayed on steady rotation in this household during these absent years. Good things tend to keep their places in our hearts, regardless of the times or circumstances, after all.
I got all sorts of kiddy and joyous once Kehlvin announced their comeback album Holistic Dreams this past summer, set to be released via Division Records on the 24th of this month. I got to scribe a premiere for them as well earlier, so I’ll abstain from getting too recursive about my long-winded love affair with the band. Put short and simply, I was nothing short of ecstatic to be able to dig into the album right after it appeared on our listings, and haven’t been any less than that throughout my countless spins and many, many days and nights spent with it since.
“The Impossibility of Progress” was the first single that kicked my exhilaration off the charts, and it also kicks off the album itself, doing a rather good job at it. Bearing a somewhat ominous name depending the way you look at it, the inevitable change all noteworthy artists embrace and make the most out of at some point in their career is present right from the beginning and palpable as such, as it seems like Kehlvin are not only going through some sort of a musical renaissance, but are quite invested in picking apart the different aspects of their evolution. Even though there’s only seven tracks on Holistic Dreams, every single motif, segment, and word have their own details and appearances that make the album a thrilling listen. It’s also a heavy experience to take on because of this, but possesses the type of replay value many bands and artists can only dream of.
Gently floating, but with a firm barrack of sound paving the way to the song’s closing and an atmospheric outro later, we’re met with “The Walking Clay”, which shifts into a wilder gear, proceeding in a more hardcore-esque manner until settling into a proggy build-up midway through. Return to form and end with an insanely heavy sludgy drag, and you’ve got yourself one damn fine song – one of the highlights of Holistic Dreams, in fact. The songwriting and general structure on some songs on the album, and especially on this one, is deceptively simple. There’s ample hooks to keep you fascinated for days, but they’re all achieved in an organic and heartfelt fashion instead of resorting to gimmicks or production quirks, this being one of the main feats I appreciate about the record the most.
Surely enough, after making a statement about the beauty of being blunt, “Causation Failure” demonstrates the other end of the spectrum by means of abrupt tempo and mood changes, producing a dizzying vortex of sound that still comes together regardless of its all-over-the-place-ness. Followed by the slow-paced moody single cut “Electric Monks” (the subject of the aforementioned premiere), the underlying cyclic mien of the album makes itself the most noticeable. This is one particularly interesting aspect that adds further value to the album as a whole, since even though the tracks themselves have lots of tonal and compositional dynamics, those really flourish when looking at Holistic Dreams as a whole. The songs discuss between each other, each providing a step on the journey deeper into Kehlvin‘s most profound core.
The latter half starts in an oddly upbeat fashion via the major key melody serving as the intro for “Gently Thinking”, after which the discordant winds blow the listener away with a plundering unlike anything heard on the album so far. Building off its emotional impact to round the track out with the mood it started on, it’s quickly made clear that the more atmospheric cuts are saved for last here. “Dirk, My Boy”, albeit delving into some nooks and crannies here and there, is more of a one-movement song, steadily advancing and emphasizing on the mood, acting as a bridge to carry the listener to the grande finale called “Flash Backward”.
The closer ebbs and flows between extremes introduced throughout the entirety of the album, shifting from dismal tones to more positive ones, advancing from sullen realms into downright evil ones with ease and precision. Right from the full-on lush and driving opening rhythms until the final agonized vocal lines delivered with tangible fragility bringing the album to close, the track’s importance in the grand scheme of the record is made flagrantly clear. Such an opus deserves no less than a culmination point elevating it to heights you couldn’t have expected once you hit play on the first track.
Vibrant and untrammeled, Holistic Dreams is an album written by a band in its prime, fathoming its own progress and inevitable tonal transformation. I don’t know whether or not the comeback factor really plays a part in the album’s impressiveness, as it would’ve most likely made the same impact to me few years ago already, but what I do know is that it’s striking, brilliant, and more than apt to atone for the mentioned drought on their release front. Now maybe more pervasively than ever, Kehlvin are a unique unit making a whole lot of pleasant ruckus that just makes me feel really damn good every time I put it on. Just imagine being struck in the face by a ton of bricks and stung to the heart with the most grating of cusps, and oddly enough, enjoying the living shit out of every second of it. That is what Kehlvin does to a person.