Karl is a longtime freelancer who's passionate about music, art, and writing.
KVLT by LordNikon is an album that positively oozes with darkness, a feeling of shadows hanging and the sensation of an unsettled, imbalanced world that threatens us all and from which there is little escape. LordNikon has managed to imbue the entire album with a sensibility that is both dark and layered, engaging but ominous through Stygian bass, tight and nervous synths and the pervasive sense of dread generated by the sound palette of the album.
The use of bass—which is extremely deep, hard-edged and sometimes full of a sort of growling roughness—is the first way in which KVLT creates a feeling of danger and darkness. The constant presence of that weight and angularity means that the whole album exudes shadowy threat which creeps into the listener’s head.
The synths on KVLT are sometimes very high and cutting—and sometimes full of a minor-key feeling of writhing and twisting. There are some tones that are a little distorted and broken—and others that are ghostly and ethereal as they move like mist through a black night. No matter what sounds LordNikon uses, they all add to the tension and weight of the album.
KVLT is an album that is much more about atmosphere than melody. Although there are melodic moments, the overall effectiveness of the album comes from the way all of the different elements are combined to paint pictures that are dangerous and dark, threatening to drag the listener under and never let them up for air. I like the intensity of the sensations that LordNikon can generate on the album.
“Petaluma Witch” creates a feeling of lurking threat with shadowy string sounds playing a rapid, scuttling pattern and tense synths that bounce and move over an intensely low well of bass. I am intrigued by the way the track’s dense wall of sound creates a feeling of tremendous heft as organ chords intertwine with dark bass and pounding drums. This track sets the album’s mood nicely.
The heavy, oscillating rough bass and propulsive beat on “Outnumbered” contrast with washes of warmer synth float to add a sense of uncertainty while the rapid beat moves underneath. Ominous imagery is effectively generated on this track by minor chords and hard-edged bass with drums that cascade and skitter along. The organ chords which move in are minor and twisting, adding more to the sense of gathering doom which spills through the track from start to finish.
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“Loma Prieta” has a hypnotic feeling as gruff bass and thudding drums come in rapid waves. There is glow to the chiming synth notes moving in whirling pulsations over the heartbeat of drums and bass. The most unsettling part of the track is when quick and rather disjointed arpeggios move over the grunting bass while a throb of growling sound cuts into the track. The beat has a very strong pulse to it on this track as the distorted, harsh sounds keep on coming.
I was compelled by the ghostly quality to the synths in “Ashen” that felt diaphanous and insubstantial over the rumble of weighty bass underneath them. There’s a slightly muffled feeling to the swirling synths and a tinge of minor-key melancholy that added sadness to the shadows that well up around this track.
“Dark Coven” establishes a feeling of menace as crackling sounds and a synth with a harpsichord sound plays a repeating pattern of shining notes. The high drift of nervous sound adds tension to everything. I enjoyed the feeling of ominous danger about this track as the rapid sharp-edged bass moves out into the music with intent. The ever-accelerating beat rams itself into the track before everything returns to drifting sounds and dark throbbing which caps the track off nicely.
I thought the sense of calm at the beginning “Dreadlord” was a good way to start. The track opens with the chirping of night insects before bright arps circle in waves over the high and wandering notes that move through the track. LordNikon ratchets up the tension well with tightly wound notes that bounce back and forth through the music. The relentless drive of the beat adds more threat to the track in conjunction with harsh static and deep bass. As a whole, this is a piece of music that suits the portent of its title.
“Runaways” starts to define the feeling of nervous tension in the music with high string-like sounds moving into a hollow soundscape which I found pretty effective. There is something unsettling about the sound of the lead synth in concert with the depths of bass that flow harshly underneath it. The bright arps winding through the piece only add to a sense of uncertainty as they are joined by the dark pulsing of bass and beat that continues before slowly and finally halting.
Final Thoughts (What's the Verdict?)
There is a palpable shadow that hangs over KVLT. LordNikon is an artist who touches the darkness and gives it musical form. This isn’t easy listening music, but we already have too much of that as it is. I enjoyed the way in which LordNikon challenged my ears and drew me into the web he wove on the album.