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Khemmis - Doomed Heavy Metal LP (Blue/Silver Merge vinyl)

€19.90

If there’s one thing that I appreciate, it’s when a band can cover a Dio song and make it their own without being ‘ironic’ about it. Khemmis’ take on “Rainbow in the Dark” makes a couple tweaks, slowing the tempo by a hair and replacing the iconic keyboard line with harmonized guitar, but the execution is done with absolute sincerity. The somber vocals and downcast atmosphere draw out the melancholy merely hinted at in the original while the sturdy downtuned rhythm preserves its anthemic makeup.

From there, Doomed Heavy Metal shows off the mix of studio rarities and live recordings expected with an EP of this nature. “A Conversation with Death,” originally released as a split with Spirit Adrift, is the other notable highlight, putting the composition’s Appalachian folk roots through an especially doomy lens. “Empty Throne” is the EP’s most archetypically Khemmis track, driven by a volley of trudging mid-tempo riffs and calling vocals. It would’ve been a redundant addition had it been included on 2016’s Hunted, but it’s a pretty solid song in itself.

The live tracks are also a nice novelty, consisting of a song from each of the band’s three albums. These versions are faithful renditions of the original studio tracks, inevitably missing most of the vocal harmonies but presenting the weighty riffs with some extra grit. Listener preferences will come down to which tracks were preferred in the studio, but the contrast between the charging “Three Gates” to the buildup on “The Bereaved” is particularly cool.

A strong Dio cover would be enough to catch my attention as is, but Doomed Heavy Metal is an enjoyable look at Khemmis’ odds and ends overall. It is undeniably a filler release intended for consumption almost solely for the band’s die-hards, but the imaginative covers and efficient live takes give credence to their unique attitude. This EP may just be holding us over until the next proper full-length, but it’s also a reminder of why Khemmis has become one of my favorite modern metal bands.