Review by Alex Grindor on May 25, 2023.
One of the many things I like about heavy metal music is that, despite the constant developments and evolution of the style, there is always something new to discover. When one thinks that there may not be room for some new style or approach to metal, one can be certain that such an idea has happened already (or will happen eventually). Such was my impression when I discovered The Ruins of Beverast, a project helmed by Alexander Von Meilenwald that has (arguably) never released a bad album and that has mastered the atmosphere. Same impression I got when I discovered Confessor, perhaps the only band in the world that plays "Technical Doom Metal". And such was my impression when I witnessed Kiepja.
Kiepja is an all-female-band made by Jav Cartier (Bass), Graciela Rosanegra (Drums) & Paulina Cadiz (Guitars), with all of them sharing vocals duties in equal measure. Formed in 2021, this band has been on the rise and was able to release their debut album, Maga, in late 2022. The band's music is inspired by folklore and focuses on spiritualism, nature and paganism. The album opens with '4 Vientos', a spoken ritual that summons the elements of the earth. And while it may raise doubts about the album, the following song brings some crushing riffs along while all members play and sing in unison, interlacing and clashing between beautiful harmonized vocals and sudden bursts of death growls, making for an hypnotic yet heavy experience that pinballs from soft & sweet to crushing & pummeling. I do commend the fact that the vocals rarely follow what the instruments are playing, going through their own harmonies and key that it's juxtaposed with the down-tuned guitars of the music. That's not something easy to pull off. In between the many tracks there are some "power chants" that divide the album in 4 segments. Each of these (and the album as a whole) feature guest vocals and instruments from a wide array of collaborators, with each complementing the atmosphere of the music.
The production of the album is mostly well done. However I do find that the guitars are mixed way lower than the bass and the drums, which is a shame because the riffs (while simple) are heavy and really good and a great part of what makes the sound. I had the chance to see them live and , with the addition of the guitar, the experience was much better and heavier than the final mix of the album. The songs do tend to drag themselves a bit too much, while others could have been completely integrated into other songs, such as 'Declamación', a spoken word passage that could've been placed anywhere in any other song. I also find it odd that the closing track is an acoustic rendition of 'Maga', the second track of the album. It kinda makes one guess if the band was a bit short of ideas for the album's ending.
Despite this issues, the album has a great clarity in its sound and the bass guitar takes a lot of protagonism. And despite the repetitive style of the music, it does succeed in evoking a sort of "trance" on the listener. With 15 tracks and over 50 minutes of music, Kiepja's debut is an interesting hybrid of sludge, doom and folk elements that create an interesting experience. The low mix of the guitars however detract some of the punch the compositions have, but it is heavy nonetheless even as it is. Maga is a great debut for these girls and (hopefully) their next album will fix the issues this one has. Perhaps a bit too repetitive and with some tracks that could've been merged into one, but a great album nonetheless for an Ayahuascan trip.
Rating: 8 out of 10833