With each new year comes promising developments in progressive music, and it remains to be seen what 2017 holds. Djent itself is becoming amalgamated into all forms of heavy music; consequently, the genre seems to be in the process of becoming less and less distinct. However, some bands still champion the central tenets of the subgenre proudly. Parisian quintet Kadinja are one such group. The progressive metalcore act rose to some prominence within the metal community with their 2013 self-titled EP and subsequent singles. Meshing technicality and rhythmic capacity with a strong melodic sensibility, the French group have a sound that will appeal to many fans of early 2010s djent releases. On Ascendancy, Kadinja’s fast-paced, technical and hooky songwriting shines in a pristinely produced, powerful release, available on January 27.
“Stone of Mourning” begins Ascendancy mercilessly, with a riffing style that may be eerily familiar to fans of Periphery’s “The Bad Thing”. Though a great deal of djent occupies a mid-tempo pocket, Kadinja play with a frenetic energy. Their riffing gives them a certain edge and demonstrates an ability to precisely play staccato rhythms at demanding tempos. The track, featuring Corelia-esque singing in its soaring chorus, is an impressive opener.
The record quickly segues into two back-to-back, previously released singles: “GLHF” and “Episteme”. “GLHF” opens with a saccharine clean section before erupting into a punishing groove that would make Erra quiver in intimidation. Despite the easy comparisons, the band’s emotional vulnerability and powerful melodicism set them apart from their peers. Featuring the incredible work of guitarist Rick Graham, the solo soars over a melodic section before closing with a recurring groove. Afterwards, “Episteme” begins with a similarly powerful hooky riff before shifting into a scream-filled verse. Singing flourishes and darting guitar lines break up what may have been an otherwise unremarkable section. It becomes quite clear quite quickly that Kadinja have an established, but very enjoyable, approach to their music that they rarely stray from.
One example of the band’s somewhat rare experimentation is the sequel to the aforementioned single. “Episteme Part II” is introduced by a stunning synth line overlying a popping bass line and sparkling guitars. Yet it isn’t long before the band flows into their traditional fare of dazzling leads and djenty grooves. Nonetheless, the French quintet clearly have the capacity to conquer new sonic territory. On the album’s longest track, “Ropes of You”, there is a great deal of space for further ambitious exploration. Outside of the track’s impressive long-form guitar solos, it seems like experimental opportunities afforded by the song’s lengthy structure were missed in its creation. Ascendancy closes with “Seven (The Stick Figures)”, finishing the record in a pounding yet emotionally inspired fashion. An atmospheric, emotive chorus flows into tasteful lead lines over an anthemic chord sequence, ending the album gently after a jagged start.
Well-structured songs, emotional arrangments, versatile vocals and powerful riffs with an underlying technical proficiency are what make Kadinja an impressive group. Ascendancy is a near-flawless djent record, and has potential to already be one of the best progressive metalcore releases of 2017. Nevertheless, it seems like the constraints of this subgenre are limiting the potential of Kadinja; with all of their aforementioned skills, Kadinja surely have much capacity to delve into more ambitious territory. Still, as evidenced by missed opportunities in “Episteme Part II” and “Ropes of You”, the band generally chooses not to. For a progressive metalcore release, Ascendancy is an incredibly energetic, well-composed record with excellent production courtesy of Novelists’ Amaël Durand. However, it is my hope that, as Kadinja mature, they take their impressive skills beyond the limitations of genre constraints.
Notable Tracks: “Stone of Mourning”; “GLHF”; “Episteme Part II”
FFO: Periphery, The Afterimage, Corelia, Erra