Wow...wait a minute...yep, I guess this is the very first band from Indonesia (to be more specific, from the capitol city of Jakarta) which ever passed my hands for a review on this here website...and it turns out to be one of the hidden treasures in the Avant-Garde/ Experimental Extreme Metal genre, which makes this review a double hit in my books! Well, not really thàt hidden, because during its career the band already succeeded in making more than just a passing impression on the global music scene.
You see, I found out (first from other sources, then from the band's page at Wikipedia) that Kekal has been already been active since 1995, starting as a more straight-forward Extreme Metal act taking influences from both Death and Black Metal which they developed in a style of their own. Later (starting with their 3rd album) the guys integrated more and more elements from Progressive music, and eventually evolved to a more Avant-Garde band by incorporating elements from Ambient and Electronic music, dropping Extreme Metal elements on the go. As the page at Wikipedia will tell you in more detail, the band went through some line-up changes in its beginning stages, then settled on a line-up in which the trio of Leo Setiawan (guitar), Jeffray Arwadi (guitar, vocals, programming, drum machine – these first two also with the band from its beginnings, although Leo went off for a while) and Azhar Levi Sianturi (bass & vocals – added to the line-up in 1996). Then, when in 2009 Arwadi went to live in Canada, which inhibited the band from playing gigs, the trio decided to stop being members of Kekal as such, but to keep the band going for recordings, each member participating as they felt like. Arwadi's move to Canada had yet another effect on the band's music, because as he was now closer to nature and able to see God's creation in all its abundant glory (to make things clear, the band is basically Christian, but against religion as an institute – in fact, the band's earlier material occasionally touched on the band's Christian belief; something which was dropped starting from that 3rd album – see Wikipedia page for further clarification), and as a result he no longer wanted to pllay the kind of aggressive music of the band's beginning days.
Okay, a short touch on the band's output to date. Besides demos in 1995 and 1996, the band has currently a split release with Dutch Viking Black Metal act Slechtvalk to its name, as well as 2 singles, 2 EP's, 2 compilation albums, 2 DVDs, one live album, and a total of 9 full-length studio albums. In fact, Autonomy (the second full-length “without official members”) was already released in December of 2012 on German label Whirlwind Records, and a digital version can be downloaded for free from Archive.org.
Expect occasional tracks to be quite completely electronic, and to find electronics (in the form of keyboard and synth sounds, but also as glitches...and of course in the drumming). Guitar comes in in several modes, as solitary background thingy, as a more to the front coming element, and occasionally even in exiting dual lead parts. Their sound can be meandering and small, inobstrusive...or ominous and bombastic. Because Arwadi still has an accent and does his singing for the most part with a medium-high pitch, vocals dó come off as a bit “weird” as first, but as one get used to the unusual combinations of music and song (where available), one should be able to not let such trifle things bother oneself, and start appreciating Kekal for the full oddity that it is! Of course, genre purists may not like what's on offer here at all, but I am certain that among true fans of progressive music (and, let's not forget, the original definition of “Prog” related to being innovative and introducing new elements in music!) a lot of people will like, say start to even lóve what these three Indonesian dudes have done! For music by the band, check their Wikipedia page (already has some music) and the links there posted to the band's own site (www.) kekal.org and its pages on MySpace and BandCamp.
Keep in mind that, since the album's original release, they have already released a new (digital) EP entitled Unsung Division. The band has also already started work on a new full-length, to be released as a whole in 2015 (but of which they would be “releasing” one song for free download each month). Meanwhile, let's add Autonomy to our year-lists...of 2012!