One of the gems of 2011 comes in the form of ALKAHEST‘s debut release, Milk & Morphine EP. Hailing from Brooklyn, New York, the band carve out their own distinct style that can best be described as a mix of melancholic doom, psychedelia, atmospheric and extreme metal that is both compelling and brimming with musicality. Some points of reference may be the funeral doom of SKEPTICISM, MOGWAI, early MY DYING BRIDE, and AGALLOCH.
Milk & Morphine clocks in at well over 60 minutes of mammoth riffs, long instrumental passages, and truly a journey of introspection. The band makes strong use of dynamics, a wide diversity of riffing, and implements subtle and natural transitions between song sections. Guitarists Jon Powell and Nikhil Kamineni are a formidable duo as they often play distinct guitar parts and provide the types of lead guitar parts that are aimed adding to the music rather than scorching the fretboard. Bassist Adam Campanella makes his presence known with his solid playing. Drummer Rajah Marcelo provides a powerful backbone to the long songs with his well-written, precise parts which help to add plenty of character. His double bass parts are much appreciate and add a nice extreme metal undertone to the music.
Opener, “Sixtus,” serves as a good warm up for the EP as the band introduces the various elements and qualities that make up their sound. There is a fine balance between the heavy, brutal riffs, and clean guitars/bass lead by the tortured vocals of vocalist Chris Dialogue. His excellent vocals are a mix between low end growls and tortured high end screams. ALKAHEST truly hit their stride on the title track as the melancholy cascades down right from the start. It brings to mind the kinds of desperate and desolate emotions of DISSECTION‘s The Somberlain and AGALLOCH‘s Pale Folklore. The pacing and flow of the song is excellent as tension and urgency is gradually and continually built up, further contributing to its overall effect. “Labrador” starts out like a more psychedelic Mandylion-era THE GATHERING but goes further with darkness and despair and slowly dies like burning embers. “Gaius” has plenty of eerie riffs. Closing track, “Duchess,” starts off like middle-era ANATHEMA and once again, the band immediately drives home their emotional delivery.
If Milk & Morphine is any indication of ALKAHEST in its earliest form, then their debut LP is going to be a monster. Don’t miss out. (self-released)