Upon inspecting a compact disc labeled as “Ketman -- Dobrze,” one might assume the band has foreign origins. Maybe German…or Russian? No, probably German. Does the Czech Republic have its own language? Whatever, I don’t fucking know. Turns out the band’s from Boston.
Ketman’s music is based on a sound reminiscent of early-`90s alternative rock. Their pounding drums and overdriven chord melodies bring to mind bands like Rocket from the Crypt and Shellac. This hard rock backbone is both well executed and well engineered, making it quite clear why they were selected to play a recent Motörhead tribute show. Their knack for recreating the sounds of their hard rock predecessors is impressive.
What elevates Ketman above the level of mere mimicry is their ability to take this rock hard foundation and intermittently meld in the frenetic, angular, and discordant guitar melodies of more contemporary bands. Track one on Dobrze, entitled “Infection,” begins with spasmodic reverberations that seem to suggest the influence of technical hardcore. Shrill guitar shrieking then gives way to a loose riff-based indie rock beat, recalling the work of Pretty Girls Make Graves. Then, about 45 seconds into the first song, Dobrze loses its momentum.
The band surpasses the majority of Boston’s rock outfits in their ability to create a technically and sonically interesting sound, but from a songwriting perspective, they fall short. While Ketman exhibit a definite capacity to create compelling music, most of the songs on Dobrze lack either the memorable hooks of pop-rock or the soaring dynamics of the post-hardcore bands which they borrow from.
There is certainly an attempt to make these songs catchy, but lyrically, they are uninspired and at times the vocal deliveries reflect this, making it quite noticeable. The violent and rebellious images presented on the album art and lyrics within simply do not come across through the music. Ketman perform skillfully and energetically, but ultimately they lack the honest passion of youthful rebellion that they attempt to incite in their listeners.
Still, Ketman’s potential to excite Boston rock fans is unquestionable. Their music is every bit as appealing as that of Read Yellow, who have garnered considerable attention over the years. Ketman have already created a name for themselves. All they need to do is go a step further. As of now, Ketman are not the saviors of the Boston rock scene, but they certainly raise the bar.