Keep Of Kalessin
17 May 2010
by Tom Dare
Over the last few months, Dragon-obsessed Norwegians,Keep Of Kalessin have got a certain amount of publicity- and inevitably a heavy dose of pillorying – since they announced their attempt to become Norway’s entry to this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. While unsuccessful (albeit by a narrow margin), a band as good and accessible as Keep Of Kalessin deseve to be much bigger than they are, and the exposure they’ve gained might help propel them to where they truly belong. Following this all up with yet another excellent album in the shape of Reptilian will certainly help secure the affections of any new fans all this extra attention has generated.
Keep Of Kalessin began life as fairly conventional, if quite melodic, black metal band, before disbanding when guitarist Obsidian C (the “C” stands for “Claw”- I told you they were dragon obsessed) went off to tour with Satyricon for a few years. After that ended, he got a new line-up together that included the legendary Attila Csihar and Frost. The EP that resulted led to the formation of the current cast, who have since recorded three more albums. The band have gone in even more melodic directions, and could now perhaps be best described as the band In Flames might have been if they’d spent a little less time listening to Entombed, and had instead listened to a solid helping of Immortal. Add in a lyrical obsession with large, scaly winged reptiles and a few almost power metal-esque atmospheric keyboards, and you’re getting close to Keep Of Kalessin’s sound.
Reptilian initially feels like something of a stylistic shift from the previous two records. Both Armada and Kolossus efforts immediately grabbed you with the catchy yet still razor sharp riffs of Obsidian C (a riff lord in waiting?) but that isn’t the first thing you notice here. The vocals of frontman, Thebon, which have always carried melody within the scream, but the vocal hooks are much bigger than ever before. The most obvious example of this is the song which would have impoverished me in Eurovision, ‘The Dragontower’. Although it has been thoroughly de-poped since then, you can instantly see why they came so close – a big riff and one of the most sing/roar-a-long choruses you will hear all year. Similar hooks are present elsewhere though, including several in ‘The Awakening’ (one of which may remind you of a certain house in New Orleans- you know, the one The Animals sang about).
After a few listens however, the signature riffing comes through – albeit with a little more thrash influence than previously – and songs like ‘Dragon Iconography’ begin to display the same strengths that made Armada and Kolossus such instantly attention-grabbing albums. This is not the sound of a band getting bored with what they have done before, more that they are realising what their strengths are and trying to build on them rather than being complacent and stagnating. While it all does sound rather different initially, ‘Ascendant’, the last track and only single from Kolossus, gave an indication of this direction the band have headed into.
Watch Keep of Kalessin playing ‘The Dragontower’ live…for Eurovision:
Laden with all of the sinister, memorable riffs that Obsidian C is a master of, and displaying some new tricks and huge vocal lines all wrapped up in a majestic and powerful atmosphere, Reptilian is an utter triumph. Comprised of anthems with accessible structures, atmospheric almost-ballads, and majestic, progressive epics, this is a record that should firmly cement Keep Of Kalessin amongst Norway’s elites. They are accessible yet heavy, sinister yet grandiose and have everything in their locker – riffs and shreds, melodic vocal hooks and throat-searing roars, and a rhythm section that contributes far more than just holding the band together while still being as tight as a dragon’s wing in full flight.
When touring their last album, Keep Of Kalessin were the bottom of three bands playing as support on an Amon Amarth tour. On the evidence of Reptilian, this is a band of equal calibre and capable of being just as big. If there is any justice, they will be.
Sounds like: Very melodic Immortal, dragons
Top tracks: The Awakening, The Dragontower, Reptilian Majesty
Keep Of Kalessin- Reptilian tracklisting:
Leaving The Mortal Flesh
Dark As Moonless Night
The Divine Land