The promo for Unwritten Rules Prevail (available to stream on Google Play, Spotify, iTunes or purchase a physical copy here) warns that it is “only for the most extreme ears”. So, I am rather proud to be the owner of a pair of extreme ears, because this 22-minute blast of fury is definitely my thing. Despite the Arabic name (which translates as a very pleasant insult – don’t look it up), Kess’khtak are from Geneva, Switzerland. Across two studio recordings plus miscellany (including a live album recorded in Cuba) they are described as death metal/grindcore, and this is reasonably accurate; they sound like a blend of the most extreme aspects of Cannibal Corpse and Napalm Death, but with a distinct groove element that adds an intriguing catchiness to the unremitting brutality.
The best thing about this album is the furious riffing from guitarist Fouad Ilias. His mid-register snarls suddenly erupt into devastatingly heavy passages that produce heart-stopping moments. The formula is the same throughout – nasty discordance that drops without warning into relentless, exhilarating chugging. And the formula works; “Born With A Curse” and “A Late Sense Of Relief” are irresistible, and by the time “Of Roaches And Rats” kicks in, the most groove-oriented of the tracks, it’s hard not to slip into a sort of death/grind trance.
In a slight contrast to the deathgrind sound, the vocals have a hardcore flavour, with Kess’khtak unusually boasting two vocalists – Florian Durand and Mathieu Mangola. This is really entertaining in a live setting and they could definitely make more of it when recording because it’s difficult to distinguish between the two voices on the album. Lyrical themes are generally abuse of power, nihilism, and the curses of the modern world, with some evocative song titles such as “Algorithm Of Hate”.
Stream the entirety of Unwritten Rules Prevail right here!
At just over 20 minutes and seven tracks, this is more of an EP than an album, but it’s the perfect length for a musical explosion of this intensity. There’s absolutely no let-up until the comedy vocal out-takes at the end, there to emphasise the DIY, rough-and-ready flavour of the group.
Kess’khtak has undoubtedly developed their own unique sound, but they form part of a proud Geneva extreme metal tradition which stretches back more than twenty years (Knut, Nostromo, Mumakil, amongst others). This is a scene filled with interconnections – not least because Mathieu Mangola also provides vocals for another Geneva band, Colossus Fall – and it appears to be experiencing a resurgence. Having lived in Geneva for the past two years, I’m starting to wonder if the place does indeed have a “sound”, which I haven’t quite put my finger on yet. And while I muse upon that, take your musical horizons to the next level of intensity with this excellent piece of noise.
Unwritten Rules Prevail Track Listing:
01. Born With A Curse
02. A Late Sense of Relief
03. The Ordeal
04. Of Roaches and Rats
05. Unwritten Rules Prevail
06. Algorithm Of Hate
07. Nihilism 2.0
Run Time: 22.26
Release Date: May 25, 2018
Label: Art Gates Records