Despite the fact that I have been a fan of Extol for a number of years, it wasn’t until two weeks ago that I finally heard mention of their connection to the band Lengsel. A side project this most assuredly is not, however. The three members here have moved in and out of positions within Extol over the course of seven years and five releases, with 2005’s The Blueprint Dives being the only record to feature all three playing together at once. During the course of all this time, the Lengsel side of the fence managed to release one demo and one full-length: 2000’s mightily impressive Solace – a record that blended all the technicality and forward thinking ingenuity at the core of the Extol formula, but with an added allotment of biting, clean black metal flavorings to further detach the troupe from their thrashier counterparts.
At over six years in the making, The Kiss – The Hope finds the Lengsel-ian trinity completely switching gears. Not too surprising, considering the morphing nature of their fraternal comrades, Extol. Although the band’s website still refers to them as being “progressive and experimental black metal”, this record really has very little to do with the crux of our genre’s most dark offspring. And truth told, although their first record shares undeniable musical similarities with black metal, the band’s lack of nihilistic aesthetics is enough for me to land them squarely outside the unhallowed gates.
So, yeah, The Kiss – The Hope has all but abandoned the black metallish elements that worked so well on Solace, opting instead to have its harsher moments bend more toward a post-hardcore flavor. Now, I’m admittedly as novice as one can get when it comes to this style, but when this record heads down a faster, heavier route – e.g. “Hell Calls Hell”, “A Little Less to Heal” and “Eternal Seven” – it features the sort of slightly discordant, manic chord progressions and hollerin’ that bands such as Fugazi and Quicksand started and scads of young bands today have modernized, but bent further and generally made more aggressive.
During its less threatening moments, The Kiss – The Hope dips into loads of different styles, but I couldn’t help but be reminded of Mike Patton on a few occasions, due in a large part to the distinct Patton-like vocals found throughout the record. Case in point: the cool, bluesy, bee-bop-ish “Tales of the Lost Love”. Additionally, “An Anonymous Phone Call,” “The Warm Water Chaseway” and the Cure-flavored “The Pale People” all sound as if they could land on whatever the hell still serves as the radio these days, if they’d strip away a bit of the quirk.
Much like their thrashy counterparts, Lengsel is interested in challenging their fans with their new material, and this record does so, tenfold. Those hoping for Solace pt. 2 may initially be disappointed, but given the time and some time to digest, The Kiss – The Hope could be a very rewarding listen, and one I’d certainly feel comfortable recommending to the more adventurous listeners out there.