Kekal in concert at Alter Gasometer, Zwickau, Germany in 2004
|Genres||Avant-garde metal, extreme metal, electronic, progressive metal, progressive rock|
|Labels||Whirlwind Records (current)
Fear Dark Records
Open Grave Records
|Associated acts||Altera Enigma, Armageddon Holocaust, Doctor D, Excision, Inner Warfare, Mournphagy, Worldhate|
|Past members||Jeff Arwadi
Azhar Levi Sianturi
Newin Atmarumeksa (Newbabe)
Kekal (sometimes stylized as KEKAL) is a heavy metal band formed in 1995 in Jakarta, Indonesia. According to AllMusic, Kekal was one of the first heavy metal bands from Indonesia to make international inroads, and according to sociologist of heavy metal, Keith Kahn-Harris, was one of the few extreme metal bands from Southeast Asia to ever make more than a minimal impression on the global scene. Founded by two musicians known simply Yeris and Newbabe, the band underwent some shifts in lineup in its early years, but emerged with a consistent lineup of three key-members, guitarist/vocalist Jeff Arwadi, bassist Azhar Levi Sianturi, and guitarist Leo Setiawan. Frequently labeled as black metal, progressive metal, and avant-garde metal, Kekal plays a very diverse range of music styles within the frame of metal and rock, incorporating many other music genres such as ambient, electronic, jazz fusion, and progressive rock.
Throughout its entire career, the band has released nine full-length studio albums, two EPs, two compilation albums, two demo tapes, a split album with Slechtvalk, and several contributions to various collaborative albums, and in 2004 engaged in a successful European mini-tour. As of 12 August 2009, all key-members have officially left Kekal, but continue to contribute material. Though the band currently has no active members, former members of the band contributed to an eighth studio album entitled 8 which was officially released in 2010, and a ninth studio album entitled Autonomy, released in 2012.
- 1 History
- 2 Music
- 3 Ethics and ideological stance
- 4 Line-up
- 5 Discography
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
Early years (formation to 2002)
The early history of Kekal started out in 1990, when 16-year-old musician Jeff Arwadi formed a self-styled "punkish thrash metal" band called Obliteration with some of his high school friends, but Jeff quit this group in 1991 to better learn guitar. Kekal was officially formed on 15 August 1995, by two friends, simply named under pseudonyms Yeris and Newbabe (revealed years later as Newin Atmarumeksa), as a more straightforward extreme metal band. The name Kekal was coined by Newbabe, and is Indonesian for 'Immortal' or 'Eternal'. The band was intended as a one time project, and recruited a vocalist known simply as "Harry" to help record a four-song demo tape. This demo began to circulate and caught the attention of future guitarist Leo, who had gained experience in a Metallica and Megadeth cover band.
In June 1996, Azhar Sianturi joined Kekal and the band recorded its official demo, entitled Contra Spiritualia Nequitiae, using the songwriting and production talents of Jeff Arwadi, who was also a member of the group Inner Warfare. According to Jeff, the demo was recorded in his bedroom with only a Fostex X-28 4-track tape recorder and $2 karaoke microphone. With the help of underground tape trading circles and local fanzines, the demo soon caught the attention of the metal scene outside Indonesia and Southeast Asia, and few record labels began offering deals. Later that year Leo Setiawan joined the band, and in April 1997 Kekal began to record its self-produced debut album, Beyond the Glimpse of Dreams, released in 1998. The album was licensed to and released by two record labels, allowing for Kekal to be known internationally, especially in the underground metal circles around Europe and North America. Harry left the band after this recording, and the remaining trio released Embrace the Dead the next year. Jeff has expressed disappointment with this album, both in the stylistic direction, which was intentionally designed to appeal to a more mainstream audience, and in the recording sessions, which would inspire the title of the band's next album, The Painful Experience. The following year the band contributed to a Living Sacrifice tribute album with a cover of that band's song "Mind Distant". In October 2001, the band's third album, The Painful Experience, was released. Leo Setiawan left the band before the recording sessions and moved to Melbourne, Australia, but he was still listed on the album credits as a guitarist due to his contribution on the album's songwriting and general concept. In 2002, the band was reduced to a duo, and collaborated with the Dutch band Slechtvalk to record a split album entitled Chaos & Warfare, and also recorded a cover of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" for the compilation album Brutal Christmas: The Season in Chaos.
International scene (2003–2006)
In 2003, with the absence of Leo as a guitarist, the remaining members Jeff and Azhar Levi recorded a cover song "Dance Macabre" for a well received Cradle of Filth tribute album entitled Covered in Filth, and shortly after they released the highly progressive and experimental 1000 Thoughts of Violence which was also well received, being rated eight out of ten by Rock Hard and was regarded as a highlight of the year 2003 by Powermetal.de. A best-of collection of works and re-recordings of Kekal entitled Introduce Us to Immortality was also released that year. Also that year, Kekal received notice by the Antwerp-based radio show "Psych Folk" Radio on Radio Centraal, being referred to in that show's programs on progressive music in Indonesia. The success of 1000 Thoughts of Violence was followed up by a two-week European mini-tour, arranged and promoted by the band's record label in Europe at the time, Fear Dark. In March 2004, the band played a string of shows in the Netherlands, Germany and Sweden, and was featured in the Dutch magazine Aardschok. That year also saw the release of Spirits of the Ancient Days, a collection of early Kekal demo songs.
Upon return to Indonesia, Kekal was back in the studio to record a fifth album Acidity which included guest musician Didi Priyadi on guitars, as well as playing some local shows with him as an additional live guitarist. Acidity was released in 2005 and was an official reunion album for the band, which marked the return of Leo, and a vocal contribution by founding member Newbabe. Acidity was well received, and Kekal was again noted by "Pysch Folk" Radio. In 2006, the band started recording their sixth album, The Habit of Fire. In 2006, Jeff leaked two cover songs, "The Prow", originally by Voivod, and "Juices Like Wine", originally by Celtic Frost, both of which were recorded in 2005.
Jeff's move to Canada (2006–2008)
In 2006, right after the recording of The Habit of Fire, founding member Jeff Arwadi moved to Canada while the rest of the members were in Indonesia, leaving the band unable to play shows and do touring. At the same time they left their longtime record label Fear Dark and status of the band was in question. After few months of uncertainty and rumors of break-up went around among their fans, they all decided to remain together and to keep the band only as a studio project. They quickly signed licensing deals with two record labels to release The Habit of Fire in 2007. The album was received very well and was named CD of the Month by UK's music technology magazine Sound on Sound, as well as being nominated as The Best Avantgarde Metal Album in 2007 by Metal Storm. In 2007, Jeff leaked another cover tune, "Redemption", that originally was planned as part of a Johnny Cash tribute album by Open Grave Records, a project that was ultimately shelved. Later in 2007, Jeff announced on the band's Myspace blog that a new Kekal album was on the way, which he had been working on all by himself.
It was revealed later on that the new album was entitled Audible Minority, and it was meant to be released officially on 25 December 2008 as two versions: a free download and a limited edition Digipak with total 11 songs including a cover of the A-ha song "Locust". Unfortunately the Digipak version was never released, and the album ended up being offered only as a free download instead.
Departure of band members (2009)
In March 2009, Azhar Levi decided to step down from Kekal. Jeff Arwadi said that although this closed a door, Kekal would continue as a musical unit in a "new era" of the band's history. On 12 August 2009, Jeff announced that he and Leo had left Kekal, and that the name would continue but without active members. He said that, as well as unspecified personal reasons, he decided to leave the band because, after being closer to nature and in a less densely populated city in Canada, he was unable to continue to make dark and angry metal music which he did in the past with Kekal. Shortly after, Kekal put up an offer of three albums for free download on its website, including its best-selling album to date, 1000 Thoughts of Violence.
Many of its fans perceived that Kekal had technically split-up/disbanded at the moment band leader Jeff announced his departure from the band, despite the fact that Kekal as an institution still existed and the institution itself was not affected by any founding member leaving. To end the confusions among the fans, the band issued a statement posted on its official Facebook page: "KEKAL IS NOT DEAD!!!! When Jeff left Kekal it doesn't mean the band is dead!" The band's MySpace and Facebook pages are still active and currently being moderated mainly by volunteers from the band's Street Team members, as well as Azhar and Jeff themselves.
Current activity (2010–present)
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On 13 January 2010, Kekal announced that a new album was in the works, and that former members Jeff, Leo, and Levi were all contributing. Then, on 15 February, Jeff posted a music video on his YouTube channel for an, at that time, untitled new album. The music video was for a song entitled "Tabula Rasa", which was also released for streaming. On 23 June 2010, the band announced on its Myspace and Facebook that it would release its eighth album entitled 8 in late 2010, and that further details would be forthcoming.
On 15 August 2010, a remastered, limited-edition version of the band's second album, Embrace the Dead, was released as a free-download for up 1000 downloads in celebration of the band's 15 year anniversary.
Kekal's newest album, 8, was made available for pre-order on 22 December 2010 by Whirlwind Records, which included an offer of free shipping within Europe up to 24 December. The album was released on 23 January 2011.
On 2 March 2011, Jeff Arwadi announced on the Kekal Facebook page that he and Leo were recording new music, and said that another album would probably be released sometime in 2012. On 2 April, Kekal announced that a download-only EP would be released in June or July, and would contain two brand new tracks recorded in 2011, as well as separate guitar and vocal tracks of "Tabula Rasa" for the purpose of remixing by the general public. On 26 April, Jeff uploaded a music video for the song "Futuride" from the upcoming EP, which was promised to be released in July. The official release date for the album, 10 July 2011, was announced over Facebook on 23 June 2011. The title of the EP was Futuride EP, and three tracks from the album were made available for public use under Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike license. On 24 February 2012, Kekal announced the title of its ninth studio album, Autonomy, and the album was released on 19 December 2012, first as a limited, hand-numbered deluxe-edition double-CD with the 2008 album Audible Minority (which was previously never released on CD) added as a bonus disc. On 29 June 2013, Autonomy was released by Indonesian netlabel Yes No Wave Music as a free digital download, but restricted to Indonesian market only.
On 19 March 2013 Kekal released a surprise EP, Unsung Division, announced the 10th full-length Kekal album would be released in 2015, and a the possibility of a second EP in late 2013 or 2014. The Unsung Division EP consisted of songs originally written for the upcoming 2015 album, but removed as the "some compositions turned out to be a bit out-of-place with the rest of the album's general concept," according to Arwadi.
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Although mainly known as a progressive metal and avant-garde or experimental metal band, Kekal has stylistic origins in extreme metal, particularly black metal, but even with its debut album the band demonstrated a unique style. Beyond the Glimpse of Dreams featured a varied sound of black and death metal and incorporated a range of vocal styles such as high pitched black metal shrieks, death growls, and female singing. On Embrace the Dead, Kekal used a combination of black metal with death, classic, and doom metal elements and included hints of Gothic and dark wave. The third album, The Painful Experience, saw the band fusing its black metal style with progressive metal and included elements of thrash, classic, and power metal. Mark Allan Powell described that most of the band's songs were midtempo to fast with a heavy, guitar-driven style, though the band incorporated "certain elements of variety into the sound." In a 2001 interview, Jeff expressed ambivalence to what style the band was described as, as long as it was "metal". On its fourth, highly technical album, 1000 Thoughts of Violence, the band plunged into ultra-progressive experiments, The album was noted for switching between raging intensity and more mellow passages, such as the song "Violent Society", which even included a hip-hop passage. Powermetal.de noted that the band had become more progressive and lost some of its toughness and aggression. "Psych Folk" Radio viewed the album favorably, mentioning that 1000 Thoughts of Violence "is a possibility to invite progressive rock listeners to take the challenge to open up their perspectives." In March 2004, Aardschok Magazine described the band's albums as a mix of black, heavy, and progressive metal, being grounded in the extreme metal scene.
On its well received fifth album, Acidity, Kekal used double bass drum blasts and saw the band incorporating styles such as electronic, black metal, progressive metal, progressive rock, classic rock, indie rock, psychedelic rock, trip hop, jazz, ambient, and avant-garde. Jeff Arwadi responded to the "avant-garde" label in an interview with Ultimate Metal.com: "For us, avant-garde is not a classification of music. It is a state of being, a state of becoming... ...once your music can be classified easily, I don't think the word progressive or avant-garde fits. So that's why we mention in our bio that 'avant-garde' is an ideal state for us, and not a classification." On the next album, The Habit of Fire, the band maintained its use of various music styles such as electronica, ambient, and jazz fusion, but began to shed its black metal roots and introduced atmospheric soundscapes and an industrial vibe. Pop Matters described the album as mixing black metal, noise rock, progressive rock, and jazz fusion. With the 2010 album 8, the first album by the band without any active members, Metal Hammer Germany noted that the band was now far away from its early black metal days. Powermetal.de described the band as avant-garde tinged post-rock, with the album being predominantly electronic, but stated that "experimental" was the simplest description of the album. The reviewer, Björn Backes, made comparisons to The Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers and noted the use of "weird" arrangements, post-rock mood swings and alternative guitar sound. Sonic Seducer called the album simply avant-garde and described the band as loving triplets, polyrhythms, and complex beats.
Kekal has identified itself with the punk rock and early 1980s metal scenes, and considers itself a "street-progressive" band that is aesthetically more akin to Sonic Youth or The Mars Volta than to technically oriented bands like Dream Theater. The band claims roots in 1980s forms of heavy metal as pioneered by bands like Iron Maiden, Bathory, Trouble, Helloween, Celtic Frost, Sodom, Death, and Massacre. Dimebag Darrell and Quorthon have also been cited as influences.
Currently, Kekal has cited an influence from many styles of music and now lists a large host of artists as an inspiration, including A-ha, Amebix, Autechre, Björk, Black Sabbath, Bohren & der Club of Gore, Camel, Celtic Frost, Cocteau Twins, Chick Corea, The Cure, Miles Davis, Depeche Mode, Discharge, Duran Duran, Gazebo, Godflesh, Iron Maiden, Joy Division, Killing Joke, King Crimson, Led Zeppelin, Mantronix, Massive Attack, Curtis Mayfield, Merzbow, Pat Metheny, Wes Montgomery, Gary Moore, Napalm Death, Outkast, Pan Sonic, Paradise Lost, Parliament, Pet Shop Boys, Pink Floyd, The Police, Portishead, Radiohead, Red Snapper, Return to Forever, Rush, Sonic Youth, Squarepusher, Talk Talk, Tangerine Dream, Amon Tobin, Trouble, and Voivod.
Songwriting and recording techniques
Jeff has stated that starting from the album The Painful Experience they incorporated their own approach to record drum tracks in the studio which they call "hybrid drums", a mix of real-time performance and software-based matrix programming. He also mentioned the efficiency of using the hybrid drumming compared with getting a drummer: "About the drummer, it is still very hard to find a right drummer because Kekal music is ranging from very extreme-metal with blast beats and fast double-kicks, to powerful rock beats that demand steady tempo, and to some polyrhythmic playing and time-signature shifts in the characteristics of jazz and prog drumming. We would need 2 or 3 kinds of drummer for Kekal. That's why the best thing for the recording is to make the hybrid drumming." In other interview, Jeff mentioned the process of recording of The Habit of Fire, starting from collecting samples and creating MIDI information, then manipulating the sounds to create what he called the 'skeleton'. Then riffs, MIDI-triggered instruments, synthesizers, and melodies would be added and the structure re-arranged once again. Once the song structure was set, the guitars would be re-recorded, then bass and drum tracks would be put on top, then vocals. Jeff also mentioned during the interview about the 2011 Futuride EP, that he has experimented with additive synthesis on the recent songs he has recorded and uses guitars to counterbalance the sounds generated by the additive synthesis.
Ethics and ideological stance
Kekal and DIY ethic
Kekal claims to have followed a strong DIY ethic throughout the majority of its career. Kekal owns the copyrights of the band's recording masters and has 100% artistic control over music, production and artwork. Kekal has recorded and produced most of its albums in its own studio/workstation, manages the band itself, does its own photo sessions, and designs its own album artwork and covers. As Jeff stated, "So far, we've been known as an independent band who never want to get signed by record label, to maintain our independency and control over our artistic freedom, and also to own our recording masters and copyright.. Instead of band signing, we always prefer to license our finished albums to record labels."
Kekal and Christianity
Kekal has acknowledged in interviews that the band members, at the time interviewed, subscribed to Christianity, and has been described as one of the first black metal bands to profess Christian beliefs. Known to have fans from different religious backgrounds, and with the majority of their listeners being non-Christians, the band has stated on its Facebook page that as an institution it is not a Christian metal band and does not endorse any particular religion or ideology, and has always maintained that it is about music, life, and universality, and stands against any form of elitism and exclusivism in today's culture. Although Christianity has comprised a part of the band's lyrics, the band has said that from The Painful Experience (3rd album) onward its lyrics have not been associated with religion or ideology at all. Mark Allan Powell commented on this in Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music, stating that "on the band's first two albums the songs testified to their Christian faith in an upfront way", but that on their third album, the band pulled back from an overt approach that "Jeff says tended to turn people against the band before they gave the music a chance." According to Powell, "they maintain that three-fourths of their albums are purchased by non-Christians." In an interview with HM Magazine, Jeff Arwadi clarified his view on Christian metal: "I don't want to divide our fans and market as religious - secular dichotomy. We always see everything as one. When we started the band, we knew nothing about the Christian metal scene, and we started just like a normal band in our underground scene. We grew up in the normal underground metal scene, and have already got attention from that scene since the very beginning. Kekal never belong to any church or some kind of ministry and never will. We are 100% just like any band you would call them as secular band. But then we knew we were also accepted within the Christian metal scene as well, that's cool to know, although I think it still less than 50% of our general fan base."
Jeff Arwadi in particular has expressed his belief in Christianity that is not a religion, but more about faith, as in his opinion most religions are about laws, organizations, rites, and dogmas. In one interview, Jeff clarified that for him personally, faith is something that drives the human life, and, just like diet and exercise, does not have to be associated with religion whatsoever. When asked to clear up the "confusion" surrounding the band's stance regarding God, Christianity, and religions in general, Jeff responded that his views about religion are "very different than the view in western countries," and further said that "in Indonesia, religion is not an issue of faith nor tradition. It's more the constitutional issue, that means the legal and political ones. I am not anti-religion person, but I do against religion in a political and legal context" and then Jeff added his point on Kekal's stance as a band: "...we are non-conformists, musical anarchists. We hate being trendy and we never try to be the same with the rest of the scene. People can love us or hate us, I don't care."
- Jeff Arwadi (Altera Enigma, Armageddon Holocaust, Doctor D, Excision, Inner Warfare) – guitar, vocals, programming, drum machine, samples & loops (1996–2009)
- Azhar Levi Sianturi (Mournphagy) – bass, vocals (1996–2009)
- Leo Setiawan – guitar (1996–2001, 2005–2009)
- Harry – vocals (1995–1998)
- Newbabe – bass, vocals (1995–1996, 2004–2005)
- Yeris – guitar, vocals (1995–1996)
- Didi Priyadi (Happy Day, In Memoriam) – session and live guitar, live vocals
- Kenny Cheong (Altera Enigma, Soundscape) – fretless bass
- Jason DeRon (Paramaecium, Altera Enigma, inExordium) – guitar
- Doctor D (Armageddon Holocaust, Doctor D, Bealiah) – vocals, noises and samples, programming
- Safrina Christina (Excision) – vocals, keyboards, programming
- Hans Kurniawan (Inner Warfare) – keyboard
- Habil Kurnia – keyboards, engineering, mixing
- Julie – female vocals
- Hana – female vocals
- Vera – female vocals
- Beyond the Glimpse of Dreams – 1998
- Embrace the Dead – 1999
- The Painful Experience – 2001
- 1000 Thoughts of Violence – 2003
- Acidity – 2005
- The Habit of Fire – 2007
- Audible Minority – 2008
- 8 – 2010
- Autonomy – 2012
- Multilateral - 2015
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- Morrow, Matt (July 2003). "HM - Internet Exclusives: Armageddon Holocaust - Interview, July 2003". HM Magazine. Retrieved 5 January 2011.
- mpomusic, Lord Rogoth, Negatyfus, Shamgar, Stefan, Natan, Daffie K. (25–30 January 2002). "An interview with... Kekal". Art for the Ears. Retrieved 8 January 2011.
- "Kekal | Interview". Lords of Metal E-zine Issue 51. Lords of Metal E-zine. September 2005. Retrieved 4 March 2011.
- "Kekal". MusicMight. Retrieved 6 January 2011.
- Happy Day. "Happy Day on Myspace". Myspace. Retrieved 5 January 2011.
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- Sharpe-Young, Gary. "Altera Enigma". MusicMight. Retrieved 4 March 2011.
- Kekal. "The Painful Experience". Kekal Discography. Kekal.org. Retrieved 4 March 2011.
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- Bobfest (2004). "Bobfest 2004 - Bands". Bobfest. Retrieved 12 February 2011.
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- Official website
- Kekal on Bandcamp
- Kekal interview on Ultimate Metal.com
- Interview with Kekal on Deathrockstar.com webzine (in Indonesian)
- Kekal interview with Metal India magazine
- Kekal interview with Powermetal.de (in German)