With their Rise Records debut, Kublai Khan have made The Leap. You know what I’m talking about: a band that was either promising or uneven makes the jump to greatness. For this Texan metalcore group, The Leap was somewhat unexpected. Their previous records were certainly musically and lyrically aggressive, but there wasn’t enough to separate them from the pact in the past. To be fair, Nomad, their latest and greatest, doesn’t exactly carve a unique path in metalcore. Instead, Kublai Khan have just sharpened all that made them good into a fine point; their musical focus is fantastic and refined, and the band sound like the spiritual successors to Bury Your Dead: all barely-controlled venom.
Indeed, Nomad is easily the band’s most metallic release yet, as “The Hammer” is a real HM-2 riff-lord of a tune, and “8 Years” sounds like mid-career Sepultura-meets-Hatebreed. The record even closes with a doom attempt (and the only real misstep on the record, albeit an interesting one). The increased emphasis on the metal side of the metalcore formula highlights the band’s increased musical focus. Sure, the breakdowns are abundant, but they’re also the best of the band’s career, and they feel earned. These songs actually go places, and there’s a real sense of musical urgency and adventure, like Kublai Khan weren’t content just to color within the lines. It certainly doesn’t hurt that this is a lean album, and little of the sub-30-minute run time feels wasted. Plus, songs like “No Kin”, “B.C.”, and “The Hammer” are some of the best metalcore you’re likely to hear this year.
Matt Honeycutt sounds absolutely feral on Nomad, frustrated at the state of the world, and his lyrics are at their most vicious and honest yet. It’s always nice to hear a band take The Leap, and for Kublai Khan, you get the sense that this may not be the end of their upward trajectory.