-with my thanks to the band for sending me a review copy-
Runtime: 19 minutes
Release Date: 01/06/2021
In their follow-up to to February’s Descent, Italian band Kalah continue to showcase a dazzling variety of musical styles. This is an album that hits you in a wall of sound, to the extent that a first listen is quite frankly overwhelming, but it’s also an album that grows on you over time. After a few listens, you really start to get into it. This second release from Kalah is the middle act of a musical ‘trilogy,’ with the final part released in the coming months. At only four songs apiece so far, I feel it’s more like a single album being released in instalments than three separate pieces. It’s an approach I’ve rarely seen in music (the closest I can think of off the top of my head is Green Day’s Uno! Dos! Tre!) but in science fictional terms it brings to mind the serialised storytelling that the genre has its roots in.
Speaking of those science fiction roots, I have to give a shout-out to the album’s cover art, which is reminiscent of Golden Age covers, particularly those of Asimov’s I, Robot. Whether this is a deliberate homage or a happy coincidence I don’t know, but it means that the EP feels right at home in my collection.
Onto the songs themselves, we kick of with ‘Ejecta’, which is a strong opener. Catchy chorus, a good mix of vocals and instruments, what more could you want? This feels like it could have been a song from the previous album, blending nicely into the next. And while I’m not the biggest fan of long instrumentals, that final guitar shred is one of the better ones.
‘POV’ is a somewhat less frenetic offering, favouring the vocal side of things. It’s not necessarily stripped-back compared to other offerings, but it does feel cleaner. More tightly produced. It’s softly powerful, and if the first song was a continuation of the previous album, this is a sign that Kalah are evolving as a group. Well, maybe not evolving, but certainly continuing to experiment with new and often odd combinations of music. It’s a real lucky dip of an album, and you’re never quite sure what you’re going to get next, but for me, ‘POV’ is the golden prize.
‘Red’ is another slow track, and for me the weakest. The background static and distortion effects is distracting (especially when you listen on headphones that you aren’t sure work), and a spoken word segment is always a risky proposition. With that in mind, the second half of the song is much stronger, with sung vocals once more shining through a medley of instruments. If this is the weakest entry Kalah ever release, then they’re in good territory.
Finally, ‘The River’ brings things to an end. The drum-heavy introduction is a return to the heavier debut album, and ends this one on a high. With strong vocals, softer moments amid the madness, and the best guitar work yet, it’s frenetic, bold, and exciting. If Kalah follow traditional three act structures, then this is the ascent to what the next album will offer. Now that I think of it, Ascent could even be the name of that album.
Sophomore albums are always a challenge,. You have to deliver on early promise, while showing that you’re not a one-trick pony. There are a few odd stumbles in Human, but nothing fatal. Kalah may only have a handful of songs released so far, but they’re definitely on my must-listen list, and make for a great soundtrack as you tuck into your latest SF read.
Human is available for purchase and streaming on 1st June. Once again I’d like to thank the band for sending me a review copy.