Review: KHAIMA – Owing To The Influence

Today we are looking at some progressive / alternative rock coming out of Saarbrücken, Germany. KHAIMA was founded in 2013 by singer Sven Hill, guitarist Toufik Bougherara and drummer Markus Scherer, reinforced in 2015 by bassist Jo Rauber and completed by keyboarder Andreas Becker in 2019. The band released a self-titled EP in 2016 and now is ready to present their debut full length.

Owing To The Influence consists of 9 songs spanning over 46 minutes. The style of KHAIMA lies somewhere between King Crimson and Deftones, but I could also draw some parallels to KHAIMA’s fellow countrymen Long Distance Calling. Although the band eschews traditional verse/chorus/verse song structures, they do not descend into technical or rhythmical finicking, but could still be labeled as quite easy-listening and radio-friendly. They cleverly avoid being predictable, but the progressive songwriting and craftsmanship does not seem to be the goal or focus here. Instead, KHAIMA sound like they just want to write clever, good music, and the fact that they are very skilled musicians just naturally leads to the resulting progressive riffs and rhythms.

The guitar is mostly clean or in crunch territory, with atmospheric reverb and delay utilized throughout the combination of playful, sometimes oriental sounding single note licks mixed up with some powerchord riffs and tasteful guitar solos. The drums and bass lay a groovy and proggy foundation without getting annoying – the shifts and changes in patterns and grooves are smart and interesting, but never distracting from the songs. The keys are utilized quite inconspicuously, filling the album with a dreamy atmosphere throughout without actually ever being in the forefront. The vocals are mostly clean and float dreamily above the music, but sometimes Sven seems to channel the late great Layne Staley, adding a little bit of haunting dissonance to the more powerful sections. As a fan of Alice in Chains I really like the vocal style, and I think many prog bands could use a little more grunge in their sound.

Overall this is a very enjoyable progressive rock record, basically radio-friendly but still dark and grungy in places, with mature songwriting and confident musicians – the perfect thing for me to put on when I want to listen to quality music but my better half won’t allow me to pick metal. It is an especially strong offering considering that this is the debut full length of KHAIMA, so I can highly recommend checking out Owing To The Influence.

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