The Phantom Tollbooth
Beyond the Glimpse of Dreams
Artist: Kekal
Label: 1998 THT Records/Candlelight Records
Length:  51:50 minutes/ 10 Tracks

Black metal, despite its inherent ugliness, can be very beautiful, powerful, and moving music, and this young band from Indonesia accomplish the task. Kekal have created an original alloy of thrash and classic metal with a base of mostly black metal. Their songs are well developed without being laboriously long or degenerating into tiresome repetition. A variety of vocal styles are utilized, from normal male and female singing to death growls to wailing screams to the most prevalent style of a relatively high black metal rasp.

Though Kekal have employed an electronic device named "The Black Machine" as their drummer, they have done an excellent job programming and have managed to come up with a relatively realistic drum sound. The music is primarily guitar based, but there are some sparsely used and well-placed atmospheric keys. Skillful musicianship accents well-written songs full of motion and emotion. There are some exceptional moments throughout this album, including sweet female singing and thoughtful guitar parts, which contrast with the tortured black/death metal vocals and blast beat laden intensity to create beautiful musical chiaroscuro.

Generally the tempo is mid-paced to fast, with two tracks that really slow it down. Track eight, "Escaping Eternal Suffering," is a dreamy spoken word/clean vocal piece, with piano throughout over a backdrop of keyboards and slowly strummed distorted guitars. The last track, "My Eternal Lover," is hauntingly beautiful, with some keys, lightly picked guitars, female vocals, and worshipful lyrics. Both songs fit into the album exceptionally well.

The production is of underground quality, but the dirtier mixing of tones actually works well with the music for the most part. There are a few moments, however, where the lack of professionalism shows, like when a puff of air from the singer hits the mic too hard and gives us a big bassy "pffffmp."

Although Kekal is from Indonesia, the lyrics are all in English. Imperfect English, but perfectly adequate to get the song meanings across clearly. The band members' Christian faith permeates the lyrics of their songs. Among other subjects, they deal with the lies of Satanism, the path to destruction so many kids are on, the message of the gospel, and the Lord God Almighty:

Kekal is an excellent band who do not flounder or get stagnant in disparate attempts at sounding heavy or scary or particularly anything. They have simply crafted the music in their hearts, and it shows.

Chris King (7/31/99)