Tyneside thrashers, Kilonova, came from nowhere in 2018 to win the Metal 2 the Masses competition in Newcastle and land a slot at the mighty Bloodstock festival six months later. The debut EP, Omnicide, followed in 2019 and caught the attention of the mainstream metal press. This rate of success in the first two years is almost unheard of for a band that started as a jamming project between Jonny Sloan (guitarist) and Joe Bambrick (bassist). But the key to Kilonova’s meteoric rise from the local scene to the forefront of the UK underground is their singer, Ellen Hill. Her bandmates play swirling thrash metal with chunky rhythms and frenetic upbeat tempos, but she inserts a unique personality into this slick adrenaline fuel.
Can you think of any competent thrash/groove metal acts with a female vocalist? One reason might be the limited expectations we place on vocalists in this genre of music. The riffs reign supreme; the head-banging action and lead guitar shredding are more important. We relegate anything with high-register pipes to the power metal graveyard. Those artists that place the vocals at the front of the mix lose their thrash credentials. This may explain why opener, ‘Fragments’, feels like an alternative interpretation of the Bay Area blueprint. Ellen Hill dares to sing as if performing as the head of a Lollapalooza act from the mid-1990s. Behind her, the rhythm section expand on their wildest Megadeth fantasies to produce something in between Helloween and Moldovan alt-metallers, Infected Rain. Perhaps, Lena Scissorhands from the latter is the nearest reference point for Hill’s captivating voice.
Why does this not sound like The Agonist? It’s a bizarre question looping around your head. Is this what we want Butcher Babies to embrace on their next album? Hill showcases her more aggressive false-fry technique on the excellent ‘Burned at the Stake’. Listen on repeat and you’ll hear Exodus in the rhythmic menace of the guitar and drums. Most bands would tune the vocal lines to a death metal or hardcore roar for the heavier parts – not Kilonova. Hill froths and hisses with a tuneful danger-warning, like a riot grrrl throwback from the 1990s but with classical training. ‘Leeches and Parasites’ is a stabbing motion of 1991-era Metallica proportions crystallised in a brooding English accent and a shameless switch to a chorus that will remind you of Saffron from English pop-rock wonders, Republica. (Who remembers them?) You can forgive the pop sentiments when you hear the harmonic minor brilliance of the main riff. Drummer, Steve Rouse, didn’t read the brief for this song. You’d think his goal was to emulate Motörhead legend, Phil Taylor, behind the kit. How the quartet make this sound coherent is a testament to the energy and imagination of this EP.
Maybe the only surprise is that Kilonova chose to release a five-track EP as a follow up to their 2019 debut. Three years is a long period between records for an emerging band. Surely, they had enough time to write and record an album? ‘Fruit of the Poisoned Tree’ leaves you wanting more. Listen to the emotional resonance of Hill’s voice as the band slam through a hurricane of head-spinning guitar rhythms and settle into an anxious alt-rock melody for the chorus. You can’t forget the anthemic moments. Sometimes, the virtue of repetition drags you across the finish line. Closing track, ‘Bleed by Example’, places you in a full nelson position for your own protection. Metal is allowed to be exciting, right? A certain Dave Mustaine used to write unhinged hurricane choruses like the one here with scything guitars deviating from the vocal lines in a state of paranoia.
Moment of Clarity is another positive step in the evolution of Kilonova. Their future will bring new demands from here, and they must produce an album on their next release. Of course, the pressure will be intense after this EP, but that’s because they set high standards for their art.
Nothing sounded like this in the Bay Area or in Germany in the thrash metal heyday. Should we call this music by a new name or give it the simple label of modern heavy metal?
Release Date: 05/05/2023
Record Label: Self Released
Standout tracks: Burned at the Stake, Bleed by Example
Suggested Further Listening: Eight Lives Down – Humans (2020), Infected Rain – Ecdysis (2022), Anzillu – Ex Nihilo (2023)