Ben Hutcherson, the frontman for doom metal band Khemmis, released a cover of Santana and Rob Thomas’ 1999 superhit, “Smooth” earlier today, renaming it “Opus Santanas.”
“Philosophers and spiritual seekers around the world have long pondered a difficult question: What would a funeral death/doom reimagining of the 1999 hit ‘Smooth’ by Carlos Santana and Rob Thomas sound like?” Hutcherson questioned in his caption for the YouTube upload of his cover of the classic song, “Here is the answer.”
“Originally created as an entry for the Spectre Sound Studios ‘Oldies But Baddies,’” the caption went on to say, “This is the first in a series of videos wherein I deconstruct pop/rock hits from yesteryear and rearrange them as extreme metal songs.”
Hutcherson is calling the new covers project The Doctor of Doom, and launched a Patreon raising funds for it. Patreon members will gain access to a Discord server community where they can ask him questions, get glimpses of what he’s working on and participate in monthly discussions and songwriting workshops.
“Opus Santanas” is vastly different from the original song. Hutcherson plays the famous opening guitar riff at doom metal pace and sings with a death metal growl. Some parts are full doom and a few short stretches have typical death guitar playing as the dynamic rendition slows down and speeds up. There’s even a couple calmer sections with acoustic rhythm guitar while Hutcherson solos on top.
The cover was uploaded to YouTube as a music video where a hooded figure sets up a ritual summoning circle and comes hand to claw with a demon. It was scripted, shot and edited by Amanda Graeff and Alex Pace of Dun Fer Fun Productions.
Hutcherson talked to The Pit about the cover, “In the songs that I had gone back to, there was something interesting happening. Because fuck, I could make a grindcore version of ‘Smooth‘ by Santana, and say, Ha ha! And that’s it. But for better or for worse, I spent a long time reconfiguring that song. Just the arranging of it took days, and then figuring out how I wanted to play things, and take the feel of the song and translate it to its other form.”
He went on to credit COVID-19 keeping him from touring as the source of his desire to focus on making music this year. After he was asked about his decision to focus on hits from the ‘90s, he started ranting about how he’s not at all nostalgic about the decade but was interested in why certain songs became such big hits.
“Sociopolitically, the ‘90s? Fucking garbage!” he stated, “Creative industries as a whole were just filled with bloat and regurgitation. My original idea was to call this series Nostalgia Killer, but I don’t know, I feel like anything with ‘killing’ in the title might be not a good move right now. But my goal is to kill nostalgia.”
Khemmis released an EP in April called Doomed Heavy Metal with three new songs and three live recordings of older songs. In August, they released a cover of Alice in Chains’ “Down in a Hole” as part of a full Dirt [Redux] cover album with other bands like Thou and Low Flying Hawks. Khemmis also announced that they were in the studio working on a new album.
Photo credit: Raymond Flotat