Review by Teresa Hopkins
Release Date: October 20, 2014
01. After The Silence
02. Crisis Factor
04. Loaded Question
05. End Of Daze
06. Merchants Of Khaøs
07. Ride The Chain
08. Hung The Moon
09. Imagined Danger
10. Static Windows
11. As Far As We Go
12. The Breathing Room
When I first heard of the Swiss-American band KHAØS back in June as GerMusica was promoting their video and single ‘After The Silence’, I was quite impressed and couldn’t wait to hear more. Knowing it would be a few months before the official release of the full album, I aimed to find more about the band and how they got to this point collectively. I learned that guitarist Mark Rossi (of the Swiss band TRIBAL), bassist N I c Angileri and drummer Trevor Franklin, seasoned musicians without genre limitation, got together in 2012 with an idea they wanted to put to the test: to create a project with the goal of focusing freely on the music without anything to hold them back.
That they found the perfect singer, Chandler Mogel, for the project all the way across the ocean in America didn’t deter them in the least. Thanks to modern technology, including and especially the internet, their vision seems to have come together very well. KHAØS introduced the results of their collaboration first on the 5-song 2012 EP “Rising”, and now with “Risen”, their first full-length collection, recorded at Empire Studios in Germany under the direction of Rolf Munkes and mastered by Tom Coyne of Sterling Sound in NYC.
While I’ve listened to the album, discovering new things each time and struggling to adequately elaborate my thoughts on it, other reviews on “Risen” have already been pouring in, the majority of them positive. I held back on this one for a while because I didn’t know if I could do it proper justice. But I am going to try.
My first thought within the first few measures of ‘After The Silence’ was that Chandler Mogel was born to sing. But get this: according to his bio, though he grew up in a house full of audiophiles and studied piano and musical theory as a kid, he hadn’t sung anywhere outside of the shower until the age of 22. He was invited to a basement jam at a friend’s house, and when someone asked him to man the helm for Judas Priest’s ‘Breaking The Law’ he did so to the shock and awe of everyone around him—and off he went from there. Mogel’s not exactly wet behind the ears, though: he’s stayed busy honing his craft with bands such as TALON, CHROME PUBLIC, and OUTLOUD (the latter of which also has an album released this year called “Let’s Get Serious”) and continues to do session work. He has stated in some interviews that some of his songwriting ideas didn’t quite fit the formats of those bands and he needed the right outlet for them. I’ve listened to his other work with an open mind, and my firm conclusion, for what it’s worth, is that those were great, but KHAØS is the best showcase for his vocals and songwriting talent. Here, they truly shine, and it feels like a perfect match.
On “Risen”, Mogel sounds like some kind of angel/warrior with this beautiful yet commanding voice, very pure and very strong, leading an army of grinding, riffing, low-tuned guitars and hard-hitting percussion. The combination of these contrasting elements is so powerful—and so are the songs. Before I even paid closer attention to the lyrics, the aura of each one came through loud and clear. I don’t sense that guitarist Mark Rossi was going so much for “play it pretty” (although I must say he can!) as he was for evoking a mood, and I feel he’s quite succeeded, channeling creative, frenetic thoughts into walls and layers of guitars and lead breaks infused with melody and palpable emotion. The overall tone is passionate and slightly melancholy, but I’ve always been drawn a bit more to that so I appreciated it. At times, yes, the songs do sound “khaøtic”, but this seems the intention. Without religious overtones or coming off preachy, they reflect the chaos of today’s world, today’s society, and the insightful lyrics reflect the uncertainties and fears on our minds, inspiring us to wake up, to dig deeper, to stand up against adversity, and to question first—without just blindly accepting and devouring what we are being fed by the powers that be. Must it really come to acts of violence and desolation to provoke us from apathy? Can we rise from the chaos and destruction around us to unite in strength and purpose?
People will likely form an initial opinion of an album within the first verse and chorus of the first song. That’s a band’s prime time; it sets the tone of what is to follow and will either deter listeners or invite them to hear more. ‘After the Silence’ does start off a bit gently, but when the bridge kicks in leading to the chorus, it has the goosebumps factor. I think the band was smart to release it first, as it gives us a good idea of what “Risen” is all about as a whole. ‘End of Daze’, ‘Merchants of Khaøs’, ‘Ride The Chain’, and the slightly twisted feel of ‘The Breathing Room’ are among my favorite cuts, but I wasn’t skipping over any meantime. I hear a lot of soul searching on the album, a lot of questioning the reasoning for actions and the meanings behind them.
“Exalted”, in its B Major key, stands out a bit in contrast to the darker tones of the rest of the album. A call from spirit to spirit, it reveals the remedy to the darkness around us: even the smallest act of kindness to another can make all the difference. It is the light of love and acceptance versus hate and war. By lifting others out of the darkness, we lift ourselves as well. Sounds good to me.
“Risen” is one of the best debut albums of 2014. I sincerely hope that KHAØS was not a one-off project. I’d like to hear more from these talented fellows. But I can’t help wondering: if they do decide to make a follow-up album, will they top this?
If you haven’t yet heard this album opener, please do!
Chandler Mogel – Vocals
Mark Rossi – Guitar
N I c Angileri – Bass
Trevor Franklin – Drums