September has brought us the newest release by German doom/ambient band Kodiak, a collaboration with guitarist N titled RN|XE. Kodiak emerged in 2008 with an impressive self-titled album showing the group’s ability to frame slow, grinding compositions with more subdued atmospheric guitar and percussion.
RN|XE is made up of two songs appropriately named “RN” and “XE.” The first track offers a lengthy intro involving droning guitars and eventually light percussion and bass. It sets the stage for the compositions, showing how the two guitars work as a unit while the bass and drums usually follow another pattern or feel. “RN” builds up extremely well, showing how the group’s sound can morph from calming ambiance to powerful dissonant peaks. When the group finally reacts to the anticipatory opening of the song, it’s a crushing awakening as all four members explode with a dark march toward the peak of the song. As “RN” ends, dissonance gives way to excellent effect-ridden guitar and bass work.
“XE” has a somewhat different approach, opting to begin with the full band playing while the guitars subtly react and mirror each other as the song carries on. These riffs evolve and retreat until a lone guitar begins quite an ambitious build up to the end of the song. The first guitar repeats itself as the remaining guitar, bass and drums work toward a parallel peak filled with dissonant energy. The last few minutes of the album are filled with forceful blasts of sound, but eventually fade to electronics and echoes of delayed guitar.
As for song structure and originality, this album is right on. However, there are parts where the guitarists seem to be hesitant to get to the next part. When the bass and drums are going, it sometimes feels as if the guitars are content to play the same parts over and over with minimal changes rather than subtly progressing and changing during the quieter sections of the album. Another concern is the drums, which are a great display during the later parts of “XE” but never truly sound as put together or experimental as the other instruments.
Kodiak and N really shine in the ambient passages of the album, showing an ability to create landscapes of sound beyond the ability of most other full bands playing drone and doom metal. The first half of “RN” is quite beautiful and a fitting progression into their despair-filled dirges later on. On both songs there are moments where certain notes seem to hang in the air for an eternity until the song continues on with a new part or instrument. That being said, this album is worth a listen if you have patience for long compositions or like ethereal, chilling atmospherics.