Numerous hopes for one of the saviour-bands of “modern” black metal weighted heavily on the shoulders of the Norwegian extreme metallers Keep of Kalessin. History comes to show that it’s not an easy burden to bear, but the past several years of scene experience proved Obsidian
Claw & co worthy enough to carry the load and keep that frontline position. While the first three albums represented the most aggressive era in their discography, the appearance of “Kolossus” marked a whole new beginning for the band – firmly balanced, more melodic and yet drawing powerful energy from that dark black metal stream of inspiration for the music of the Scandinavian quartet. Namely the furor caused by that very same album two years ago placed Keep of Kalessin at a crossroad and their faithful followers began to make their own eventual plans for the future path of their champions.
Surprisingly, the year of 2010 and more precisely the new album finds the band in a not so very different state but tangled in a web weaved from the personal experimental points and methods of Obsidian
, Thebon, Wizziac and Vyl. “Reptilian
” shares more common features with the refined sound of “Kolossus” than with any other opus from the past, but the line of similarities pretty much ends here. Defining the genre of a band with such a diverse and flexible sound in one concrete style frame was never an easy task to begin with – furthermore, it even became harder these past two years, but after the fifth obligatory station from the road of their discography it already borders on with the impossible. The album gathers all well-known traditions of the band in one – the brutal direction of the first album triad shines through in many compositions while the atmospheric tentacles of “Kolossus” spread even further, stubbornly refusing to loosen their grip, and if that’s not enough, we’re tossed right in the middle of a cacophonic mixed up elements of power, speed, thrash, progressive and whatever else metal you can think of. The final result might be controversial for some people – ranging within fragmentary impressions under the influence of separate songs on one side and the clear global perception of the record on the other, which this time takes more time than Keep of Kalessin ever allowed themselves as criteria towards their listeners.
Iconography” uncompromisingly announces what’s this all about even from its semi-acoustic beginning growing into a solid chain of fastened riffs, blast beats, smooth symphonics and surprising choir participation which, together with Obsidian
’s characteristic solos, mark each song of “Reptilian
”. “The Awakening
” is among the most representative mosaic pieces – an evil atmospheric fragment with accelerated choir choruses, made out with the help of all three voices of the musicians, a sonorous bass basis, Vyl’s drumshots and the growling invocations of Thebon, who sets his chords free during the entire album and goes through several vocal metamorphoses. “Judgement” heats the mood red with a rough thrash rhythm and constant tempo changes, allowing the quartet to shine in its golden eerie light. The power metal arrangement of the sadly recognized “The Dragontower” timidly sneaks in as if to compensate for the brutal nature of its predecessors but it gladly fades away as unnoticeably as it begins. After scores of spins, this joke continues to be funny only in the ranks of the contest it was created for and I strongly doubt that many Keep of Kalessin fans would find it amusing in the album itself. Fortunately, the band has the right cure for this – in this case it’s called “Leaving the Mortal Flesh
” and is just as extreme as necessary in order to quickly wipe out the memory of that Eurovision filler. And
yet, if we have to face the “new” look of the Kalessins, the acoustic spirit of the ballad “Dark
as Moonless Night
” works out perfectly fine – beautiful melodic base with a slowed-down tempo, impressive keys and Thebon’s cleans during the chorus with the help of his two colleagues in addition. Bit by bit this offers a comparison with digressions such as “Winged
Watcher” from “Armada
” and the duo “The Rising Sign
”/”The Mark of Power
” from “Kolossus”, which by all means are warmly welcome in “Reptilian
”. The oldschool-spirited solo of Obsidian
puts the elegy to an end and steps back before the unquestionable culmination of the album called “The Divine Land
” just in time for Keep of Kalessin to demonstrate they don’t hold respect to anything sacred and to subject the ears of the fans to a scope of fire from speed metal riffs, power domination and blackened screams all in the same time, forging “a must have” concert hit. The 14 min. final “Reptilian Majesty
” ends the record in the most worthy way – the outrageous screams of Thebon pour poison and sulphuric acid as if coming out from the fangs of their mighty husky winged godfather whose eyes pierce from the artwork and along with the instrumentarium leave the listener no rest at all; The psycho repetitive key-string union suddenly bring to life associations with something beyond our knowledge, cosmic and accessable only to the musicians who vest it with sound and mould the most complex composition ever written by them. The choir enters the spotlight before the obligatory melodic solo, taken as if from the golden era of hard rock which undertakes anew the melody of “Dragon
Iconography” and thus tightly closes the circle.
” will hardly please the fans still waiting to catch a glimpse of the malevolent first steps of the Norwegians once more in a renovated version. The record would also turn out to be a hard one to swallow for all those who expect them to finally concentrate at one place in particular, still more now when Keep of Kalessin proved they can combine several genres in a row better than many other bands out there. But in the end, therein lies the beauty of the new effort – in its problematic receptivity, vast quantity of ideas, casting all prejudices aside and most accurately in its provocative spirit.