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TRACK LIST: 1. Fool's Engine 3:48 2. Rage8FA 3:34 3. Slant 4:47 4. Wide Awake 4:06 5. Perseverance 6:29 6. Surfing Narrative Waves 5:07 7. Stars & Tribes 2:21 8. Contenu Inconnu 6:39 9. Determine 2:30 10. Inflate Expand Release 6:11 11. Different Odds 2:54 12. NOZL 5:01 13. Feast or Burden 5:21 LINEUP: Oscar Alblas drums Tijs Keverkamp guitars Mark Drillich bass, guitars David Kox guitars; sampling With: Thijs Schrijnemakers Hammond Frank Boeijen synthesizers Pete Holiday guitars Morean vocals Martin de Greef sabar Luuk van Rossum sabar
Prolusion. KONG, hailing from Holland, is a seasoned unit in music circles, formed back in 1988, and with eight full-length studio productions to their name at the time of writing. Following a spell of inactivity they returned as an active band unit with a revamped line-up in 2008, and have released three of their albums after this point. "Stern" is the most recent of those, and was released through the band's own label Kongenial Records in 2014.
Analysis. I have come across many approaches to the art of creating progressive rock over the years, but it is always a satisfying experience to come across a band with a somewhat unusual approach to this type of music. Kong's take on what probably merits a description as progressive metal a case in point, as their mainly instrumental take on the genre features some unusual details here and there. The most striking aspect about the core expression of Kong is that it appears to have something of a foundation inside industrial metal. The tone and expression of the guitars often bring Nine Inch Nails to mind, dark and dramatic, but also tight, vibrant and brooding, but explored within a progressive metal context. Rather than staying put within more of a one-dimensional delivery with minor variations the guitar riffs and occasional solo overlays are quirky, developing and fairly often transitioning between multiple distinctly different expressions. At times the band will opt for a more majestic and powerful guitar sound, at the most intense with stronger similarities to a band like Ministry, especially when combined with treated, ominous-sounding voice samples. The use of spoken words, sampled voices and voice effects is a recurring feature on this album, which adds a different dimension to the compositions as they don't revolve solely around riff-based and solo-driven passages. In fact, those who find guitar solo runs to be an important aspect of instrumental music may find this CD to be somewhat underwhelming in that department, as Kong does come across as a band oriented towards moods and atmospheres being the main focus rather than technical virtuosity. Hence also the liberal use of keyboards, synthesizers and electronic effects, often in a manner that makes it rather easy to point towards Ozric Tentacles as a likely source of inspiration and with plenty of cuts that easily could merit a description as space metal. Occasional nods in the direction of good, old spaceship Hawkwind aren't all that surprising given this either, and there's even a composition here that, at least to my mind, comes across as rather similar to Djam Karet as well. I do suspect that this may be more of an incidental feature though, but it does indicate that this is a band that does have a fair bit of scope to the material at hand here.
Conclusion. The many and often rather different aspects that, in sum, constitute the sound of this band make for a generally engaging and interesting ride, as long as you do have an affection for everything that is within the fairly broad scope of this album. If an instrumental production by a band exploring what may be described as industrial space metal sounds like a good thing to you, or if an album caught somewhere at the halfway stage between Nine Inch Nails and Ozric Tentacles sounds appealing to you, "Stern" is an album you may want to add to your list of music that merits a check.
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