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Sunday, July 13, 2008

CD Review: Keep of Kalessin - Kolossus

Keep of Kalessin - Kolossus
2008 Nuclear Blast Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

A permanent image when coming to the band Keep of Kalessin for the first time is a gloomy castle keep housing occultists or demigod worshippers, not far in theory from Thulsa Doom's serpent temple in Conan the Barbarian. The fact that Keep of Kalessin has evolved over the years into a powerhouse black metal band with the tendency to write drowsy guitar ohms overtop their careening speed gives them a deadly construct with which to capitalize impressively on their fourth album Kolossus.

One of Keep of Kalessin's forthright talents is their capacity to create weaving, droning melody lines overtop their hydraulic blast beat strands that is dreamy in some instances, utterly claustrophobic in others. The fact they can also skid the manic tempos down to near nothingness when they want to merge in acoustic interludes and string and piano accompaniment makes Keep of Kalessin new masters of their brand of art.

Though it's been a long and strange journey for Keep of Kalessin with past members such as Mayhem's Attila and Satyricon's Frost holding posts before their publicized arrests, the band's present inception of Obsidian C on guitars and keys, Thebon on vocals, Wizziac on bass and Vyl on drums is even more competent than ever, particularly with an airtight rhythm section that can summon up the majesty of Emperor and Voivod in the midst of Vyl's torrential beat patterns.

While black metal's primary script is to play at breakneck neck with as many bpms as can be crammed in each song, the whole thing can get more than redundant if the artist is a one-trick pony with the project's melodies and harmonies. Such is the rare artisan in this subgenre who can make something so combative and hostile sound utterly beautiful, and on songs like "Union," "A New Empire's Birth," "Against the Gods" and "Escape the Union," Keep of Kalessin expel hyponotic guitar scales that frequently sound like mesmerizing snake cult chants. Savor as well the anticipatory doom intro of the epic title song that launches confidently from its stridence into a literal hurricane of blazingly accurate metal and a near-teary acoustic solo that breathes from a top layer of quick-wristed strumming. Not your standard black metal favor.

Just for apparent kicks, Keep of Kalessin throws in the largely straightforward mosher "Warmonger" to temper the gale force of Kolossus' tsunami, even as it eventually surrenders to a blast-beat-filled breakdown and middle stanza that also yields a tremendous power metal-esque guitar solo from Obsidian C before scaling back to the steady bopping pulse previously established.

Getting frighteningly close to the grandiose eloquence of Emperor in their quest to weave spellbinding dark metal, Kolossus is the album to beat right now in this particular sect of music. Like Nachtmystium or Wolves In the Throne Room, Keep of Kalessin might as well be considered black metal by association only, because they've risen to something far more compelling and intricate. Kolossus inhales gray mists and expunges mesmerizing dragon's breath in one of the most indenting displays of the year.

Rating: ****1/2


David Amulet said...

I've never listened to the band, but now I'm intrigued.

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

I recommend this album whether you're into black metal or not; these guys way supercede the inherent basics of that style....I'm just glad to see more artistry being put into this stuff and less concern on shock value

David Amulet said...

Exactly why I'm interested. Most black metal I've listened too lacks creativity; it sounds like this is at least interesting.

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

I know precisely what you mean, but there's been some ingenuity coming along here and there which makes it a sleeper genre of sorts, but I think we'd all be afraid to have it go more mainstream than it's already becoming...this, Agalloch, Krohm, Xasthur, Leviathan and the new Nachtmystium are definitely the freshest BM stuff I've heard lately, though there's a few others too