Wisdom of Centuries

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More than any other ambition, the members of Ukrainian avant-metal band Khors would probably wish for their fifth studio album, 2012's Wisdom of Centuries, to help them shake off the weight of previous bands clogging up their CVs (namely Drudkh, Tesseract, and Hate Forest), and finally gain more recognition for their considerably creative current exploits. The album's introductory instrumental, "Through the Clouds of the Past," may be just a brief slice of menacing psychedelic guitars put to cross purposes, but the more ambitiously fleshed out epics that follow reveal the extent to which Khors is willing to break with black metal tradition in order to state their case for individuality. While most bands of this ilk still find it irresistible to fall back on done-to-death devices like glass-gargling vocals, buzzsaw guitars and blastbeat percussion, Khors really put in the work to subdue those instincts under numerous genre-bending ingredients and foreign instruments, both traditional and futuristic in nature. In fact, it's hard to even place the exact pedigree (probably, but not with 100-percent certainty, synthesized rather than analog) of sounds, like the insistent note flourishes and eerie pings heard on "Black Forest's Flaming Eyes" and the horn-like baritone brays of "Where the Grandeur of Mountains Embraces the Space." Even more intriguingly, one could argue that melancholy tracks such as "The Last Leaves" and "Horizong Glassy" owe as much to the Cure's melancholy new wave goth as to Bathory's epic black metal, while the title track's off-kilter, mildly jazzy, underlying beat serves as a springboard for further anomalies like whispered vocals and disorienting violin stabs, offset by explosive metallic displays. As the end of this wild ride approaches via the fairly intense "The Only Time Will Take It Away" (as black as this metal gets), there is no longer room for doubt: Khors' unpredictable songwriting is more than adventurous enough to set them apart from the many other so-called avant-garde acts that are in fact still beholden to black metal underneath it all. Here's hoping that, through Wisdom of Centuries, they will finally get due credit for their efforts.

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