Kemikal Storm – Memories – EP Review
You didn’t think I’d FORGET these guys had a brand-new record out today, did you?
After whetting the appetite and setting the stage for what’s to come with the release of their single “Spiritual Rebirth,” the duo of Kemikal Storm has been at the forefront of my mind. Based on what I’d heard so far, I’m definitely looking forward to hearing what these two have come up with on their new Memories EP. They’re clearly doing something artistic & fun with their take on electro-music, Kemikal Storm ultimately has a very refreshing sound, so MORE of it, in my opinion, can only be a great thing.
Though I’ll admit, from the opening guitar-chords & soaring notes that start up the “Warm Up – Intro” on Memories – you’d be likely to assume you’re in for a rock-instrumental album, rather than an electro experience. That’s one of the best parts about Kemikal Storm’s music in my opinion though…its extremely versatile and they’ve found multiple ways of expressing themselves throughout all kinds of sounds & styles on this record, essentially not letting themselves or anyone out there like me find an easy way to categorize the music they make or put it into any one box. They’re multi-dimensional! Certainly ain’t nothing wrong with that when it comes to what comes through my speakers – yours too I bet.
Anyhow – it becomes pretty evident right from the drop on the “Warm Up – Intro” that there isn’t just a guitar player in Kemikal Storm, but an extremely capable one. If there ARE electro-elements at all on “Warm Up – Intro,” credit to these guys…everything sounds like a genuine three-piece here with real bass, drums & guitars. My ears tell me to believe that these are real instruments and not electronically-assembled here…maybe the beat might be, but the bass and guitars sound tremendously lively in a way that would be next to impossible to program. So I’m going with the theory that they’re playing it…and I think all our ears would agree on the fact that they put skill & passion on display immediately with their “Warm Up – Intro” and get you right in the mood to listen to whatever might follow next, just like a great opening track SHOULD do.
From there, they switch it up and begin to incorporate the electro-side of Kemikal Storm into the music on their lead-single “Spiritual Rebirth.” I’ve already written an entire essay about all the things I love about that song in the previous review, so make sure to read up on my full thoughts right here. Here in the context of the Memories EP, I definitely think it’s a great song to have upfront on the record and one that will certainly keep people listening. Even though the sound & style is almost a completely 180-degree turn from the “Intro” – it’s still early on enough in the record that they’re setting the standard…like they’re showing you to expect the unexpected right away on the Memories EP, and I like that. The decisive turn into electro and what Kemikal Storm is really all about through the vibrant & imaginative structure and sound of “Spiritual Rebirth” makes an immediate impact on us as listeners – you can tell from the wild ideas in this song and how well they’re produced & performed that these guys not only have a lot to offer the ears, but everything you’re likely to hear is going to SOUND amazing. From texture to tone, these guys are bringing their A-game to highly-creative compositions – they prove that immediately with “Spiritual Rebirth” and go on to confirm it all right away with “Energy In The Sky.”
Piano, violin & synth-sounds start the beginning of “Energy In The Sky,” as the electro takes an even further twist into the artistic. Excellent pacing & punch to the sounds they’re using here – once the song leaves its gentle intro behind and slides into the beat, it becomes a real thought-provoking piece of electro…you head right with Kemikal Storm into their world on this tune. When the synth-lines become even more present just past the two-minute mark…SO GOOD! I could have used more of that, I’m not gonna lie to ya…but I’d also never ever try to change or manipulate the natural instincts being flexed by Kemikal Storm – they know what they’re doing. They might give you some of your favorite parts of the song in the smallest of doses sometimes…but ultimately, isn’t that a large part of what keeps us coming back to music we love time & time again? I think it is. “Energy In The Sky” is an audio-smorgasbord of atmosphere & texture in sound, all expertly assembled and it moves with passion & emotion you can hear, spending much time on creating tiny little parts that captivate the mind & continually change the direction of the sound & the song just slightly each time as a new one begins from the time starts to the moment its finished. Highly entertaining idea…it’s subtle in so many ways, but still bold enough to catch the attention – and “Energy In The Sky” shows that Kemikal Storm is certainly not afraid to get creative.
Case in point, the following song “Breaking Point” is probably one of the most playful beats on the record, and displays more entirely unique ideas in comparison to what we’ve heard so far on Memories. I’ll say this…I enjoyed the song…there’s no doubt in my mind that this would be somewhat on the ‘easy’ side for them personally, that’s impossible to deny after hearing how much goes into so many of these other tunes surrounding “Breaking Point.” As a result, this particular track sounds a bit bare by comparison to the rest, but I believe it’s also ended to be somewhat of a break or an interlude before things get even more involved on the cuts to follow. The playful back & forth of the low-end & synth sounds make “Breaking Point” still have a charm & appeal to its sound, and its length is even shorter than the “Warm Up – Intro” was…ultimately, it’s inoffensive in every way and a quick mental reprieve for you before they ask a bit more from your brain to pay attention to the subtleties of the tracks to follow.
Because I know from the moment the second-half of their EP began with “Dreams Never Lie” they had me at my full attention once again and completely engaged. Nothing wrong with tunes like “Breaking Point” that let your mind wander off for a bit when you follow it up with something that snaps you back into their world of sound like “Dreams Never Lie” does. That’s called the build-up & the payoff…and it’s a technique that when applied correctly like this, can create a seriously memorable impact and moment in time on a record. “Dreams Never Lie” would go on to be a real highlight in this set of eight songs on Memories – it’s a track that got me seriously wondering about the process they use behind the music they make. So much of the violin, bass and guitar sounds here seem so vividly real, that even IF they’re using them electronically…I’m still willing to bet they might very well be sampled from their own stuff; like as in, there’s a very organic nature to the electro-sound they have. It’s either painstakingly put together electronically to get this to happen, or its played physically…and then whether sampled or freestyled onto the track, you still get the actual emotion in the playing & sound that ties it all right into the song. There are completely brilliant and compelling ideas on guitar, violin and bass that exist all throughout “Dreams Never Lie” – the choppy pace & movement makes it all move closer to a breakbeat, and this seems to work really, really well for Kemikal Storm. The sounds from the violin are extraordinary – the BASS springs to life before the first minute is up…the guitars are beautiful & haunting at the same time, complementing the violin perfectly. They use the bass-lines to create just as much of a beat as the drums do on “Dreams Never Lie” – it’s freakin’ genius. The distant sound of the guitars enveloped in the mix and shroud of reverb towards the end was awesome…having that fog removed from the sound and bringing them even closer by the end is another highlight example of their careful attention to detail and adding in tiny twists that make the difference. Kemikal Storm almost never seems satisfied with the amazing sound they’ve already got…they’re always moving onto the next one already like they’ve got a limitless well of creativity to draw from. Piece by piece, section by section, you’ll find parts of their music that you KNOW other artists/bands would have milked for a full 3-5 minutes, yet Kemikal Storm just keeps movin’ & groovin’ along, knowing they’ve always got something more in the tank to add to the song, or take-away…whatever it is they choose, they continually evolve the sound of their material from the moment it begins to a song’s final seconds. It’s impressive.
“Blind Bird” is a really stable cut on this record…though I’d suspect it’ll generally take people a bit longer to warm up to this tune as it does seem to take a more serious & ominous turn to the tone of the music. I think they’ve got some great melodies that float along the dusty surface of this track, but I can hear that this would likely be one of the less accessible sounds on the record in terms of the masses out there. Personally I like the thought-provoking, pensive movements of this song and how it creeps along…but I can definitely understand that compared the rest, “Blind Bird” is shrouded in a bit more mystery and isn’t as dedicated to creating as much light in the dark as the other tunes are. You add in the extremely bright beginning of “Leave Your Shadow” to follow, and you get what I mean; there’s something that sounds more drained in the energy of “Blind Bird” – but that’s yet another dimension of Kemikal Storm’s range of styles we’ve yet to hear on the record, and I think that’s commendable. They continually change things up in the songs themselves and in the layout of the material on this record; like any other album or EP out there, you’re bound to have your favorites. I suspect that while people might not immediately latch onto “Blind Bird” as quickly as the others, this reliable tune will hold-up strongly over time as people repeat the experience…it’s just as strong of an idea and executed with as much care as the rest, it’s just an entirely different approach & atmosphere as a result.
They expand their song-lengths towards the end of the EP, putting some of their biggest ideas on display right at the end of Memories in an effort to create that impact and keep you coming back for more. When you hear the vibrant pulse of the low-end synths and stunning guitars on “Leave Your Shadow,” if you’re anything like me, there’s no question – you’ll be back for MORE…because this is flippin’ fantastic. The tone to the guitars and the rhythmic-hooks they slide right into are absolutely extraordinary – there’s about three different layers of them if my ears are hearing this correctly…one up front, one in the background, one that accents the music with complementary parts that only pop-up once in a while; I might not have all that exactly correct, but whatever Kemikal Storm is doing on “Leave Your Shadow” is what REALLY works. They’ve made an extremely multi-faceted & versatile instrumental EP here – but I wouldn’t mistake that for them having any troubles with their own sound or establishing their identity – I think they know exactly what they’re doing and keeping the doors of their future completely wide-open for EVERY possibility, of which there seem to be MANY. All I am saying…is that I’d certainly continue to embrace their combination of traditional instrumentation and the electro-vibe they’re using in the recipe of “Leave Your Shadow.” Music made with ‘normal’ instruments is great…electro-music on its own can be just as great too – but the real impact that Kemikal Storm can make out there on the music-scene overall is going to come from exploring the intense relationship that can exist between the two. Songs like “Leave Your Shadow” showcase the amount of insightful balance that can be applied into the mix and movement that allow for both the electro-sounds and guitars to equally share the spotlight. That’s where the key is for Kemikal Storm…the more they explore this kind of balance and keep the music mixed with as much compelling electro and organic sounds as they are here on “Leave Your Shadow,” I think the better position they’ll be in for these tunes to be heard. Because let’s face it…they’re still an instrumental project at the end of the day, no matter what genre you feel they’re apart of…and as many of those as there are, it’s still more challenging to get music without words out there into the world in a memorable way. That’s why I’m advocating for Kemikal Storm to continue on their path of combining the real with the electronic…because that’s a lot of what makes these songs come out as stunning, memorable, creative and entertaining as they are.
Bass-lines bounce you into the atmosphere of the record’s final track “On The Bench – Outro” as the atmosphere fades-in to surround it. Surprise, surprise – Kemikal Storm brings out yet ANOTHER style here at the end, taking you into smooth, avant-garde jazz sounds & light-funk this time around. It’s a song like this that helps make you appreciate the clarity in the songs on this record through the crystal-clear production…aside from the dustier sound on “Blind Bird,” the majority of this EP has come out sounding bright, bold and beautiful like they are on “On The Bench – Outro” to end the record. I really liked this final switch in sound…the guitar-playing in Kemikal Storm clearly deserves a lot of credit…equal credit to the electro when it’s being used, without a doubt. The immaculate solos that roam through the dreamy atmosphere of “On The Bench – Outro” are entirely awesome and spectacular to listen to – you can tell they’re played with heart, passion and truly undeniable skills. The surrounding electro keeps everything perfectly in-line, allowing those guitars to really get expressive and entertaining…all-in-all, it was an extremely satisfying ending to what’s been an completely rad adventure in sound the entire way through. Definitely felt like these two dudes in Kemikal Storm reached for ambitious ideas and succeeded beyond even their own expectations with the Memories EP – all eight songs have a ton to offer the ears and they certainly make a memorable impact that’ll keep you coming back for more – and they did it all without a single word. Excellent record to listen to with highly creative ideas.
Tune into the next episode of the SBS Podcast to find out more about Kemikal Storm and hear one of their tunes from the Memories EP!
Until then, find out more about Kemikal Storm at their official homepage at: https://www.kemikalstorm.com/
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