Khamsin – What’s Left of Life?

Sometime in the last couple years, I mentioned in some Tooth & Nail Records-focused Facebook group that Come Now Sleep by As Cities Burn was the single most influential record in the modern Christian-adjacent post-hardcore scene. Jacob Curry, guitarist/lead singer of Khamsin, jumped in with eager agreement.

Listening to the Nashville outfit’s new full length, What’s Left of Life, it’s clear to see that it wasn’t just talk. It’s not that this record sounds like ACB’s masterpiece: Come Now Sleep’s power came largely from a shakingly honest lyricism that embraced doubt and devotion in equal measure, set to intricate guitar work, powerful dynamic shifts, and sweeping atmospheres. In that regard, Khamsin definitely understood the assignment.

I was first introduced to Khamsin at Bloodline Fest 2019. I was on the team organizing the fest, but was unfamiliar with them beforehand. However, I was immediately captured by their set. Besides Curry’s passionate vocal performance, I was spellbound by the intricate cascades of guitars, the bounding bass lines, and the kinetic drumming. For all the oldheads constantly clutching the same albums they listened to in high school insisting that “no one is making music like this anymore,” Khamsin offered up a compelling argument that, yes, actually, they are.

What’s Left of Life is a wonderful record in its own right, but it feels like a tour of moments that reflect much of the music I loved when I was younger. There’s the obvious As Cities Burn comparison, but there are also moments of mewithoutYou’s interwoven instrumental work (especially on the drums), Taking Back Sunday’s irresistible choruses, The Devil and God-era Brand New’s fearless introspection, Thrice’s crushing bombast, and even some of Mae’s clever melodicism. And dear reader, let me tell you that is everything that I love.

But obviously, it’s not enough to just wink at the great post-hardcore of yore and call it a day. There are plenty of acts ripping off the exact same influences without earnestness or conviction. But Khamsin uses the vocabulary of these bands to tell a deeply personal story—namely, the sudden loss of his father and all the different shades of grief that followed. The lyrics are intimate yet impressionistic, blurry enough to hear without much thought, but when you focus in, they are cutting. Between angular, asymmetrical riffs on “Conjuring,” Curry sings, “Death, I’ve found your sting / it flows through us, replacing everything.” On “Sycamore Tree,” he wears the Gospel story of Zacchaeus as an expression of his doubt, saying “how high in that sycamore tree will I have to climb to see? Branch by branch an attempt to accept or just to play a scene?” Later he sings, “You were water spilled out that we couldn’t save / Held out my hands as you fell away.” His delivery shifts with his grief, his voice moving from a fragile, warbling tenor to cathartic screams as the instruments shift dynamics around him.

Since first hearing them at Bloodline Fest, I have followed the group closely, waiting to see them release something that truly captured the energy and earnestness of what I saw in that warehouse. And with What’s Left of Life? they’ve managed to do it. They’re no longer just a promising young act—they’ve delivered on it.

What’s Left of Life? is out now through Khamsin’s Bandcamp.

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