Album Review: KUBLAI KHAN New Strength
In the past decade, there has been a flood of bands from the hard/metalcore grouping. And in economic terms, with a higher supply, comes a lower demand. With this situation present, it has practically become a game in terms of if a new contender of the genre will get lucky within the industry or succumb to climbing the hierarchy of Warped Tour side stages.
Kublai Khan has so far made a name for themselves while previously landing a spot on The All Stars Tour and squeezing into the trendy Artery Recordings label. Vocalist Matt Honeycutt, guitarist Nolan Ashley, bassist Eric English, and drummer Isaac Lamb pack ten songs in their latest LP titled New Strength for an attempt towards continuing their steady hype incline.
The initial five tracks fly by as they're all under the three-minute mark. First impressions lead me to the conclusion that this group has a metalcore sound in a hardcore format. Pieces such as "Life for a Life" and "Dear God" are examples of the paths the band can take as the semi-catchy verses are toppled by a barrage of noisy riffs. Of course, genre fusion should be applauded, yet I found the presence of the two mentioned styles to be teased rather than fully executed.
One of the main artists that come to mind while listening to these songs is The Acacia Strain; well lo and behold they snagged vocalist Vincent Bennett for a guest appearance on "Still Here." The vocal battle between both singers does not reveal a large contrast in range, but the tension from the power struggle does result in an interesting dynamic. Another buzz-band that would likely be brought up in related bands would be Emmure, perhaps most shown on the riff-heavy "Hunger." Closer track, "Smoke and Mirrors" is also a solid sample of where I could see the group heading in the future. While the group does not hold a large back catalog yet, there certainly can be a noticeable shift from their previous LP, Balancing Survival and Happiness. The relationship between the vocal melodies and rhythm section has strengthened, perhaps the reason behind this album's title.
As for strange analogies, Kublai Khan's material showcased on this album is like microwavable pizza; the whole pie is delivered fast and hot, while each slice would benefit from an addition of toppings or spices. When dwindled down to a purpose, New Strength unfortunately does not provide anything further than fuel for its demographic. For constructive criticism's sake, it seems there should be a narrower focus towards either hooks, direct intensity, or both as that would be the most practical for creating impact and an identity. Positively speaking, I think these guys have the energy and drive to last in the industry and if you are a listener who is committed to this genre, the material presented here will be most definitely enjoyable as it fulfills all respective stereotypes.