Saturday, May 15, 2010

Keep of Kalessin: Reptilian (2010) Review

You may already be familiar with the story of black metal band Keep of Kalessin entering the Eurovision contest (something like an international battle of the bands crossed with American Idol). They went to great pains to explain that they weren't selling out. I'm inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt, because I subscribe to the philosophy of Dethklok's Nathan Explosion. When Dethklok were performing a coffee jingle, a reporter asked them if they were selling out. He responded, "We are here to make coffee metal. We will make everything metal. Blacker than the blackest black, times infinity!"

As I said, I'm inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt. But the song entered in the contest, "The Dragontower", sounds like NSYNC in corpsepaint, or to be a little more generous, perhaps a gothic Linkin Park. I have a hard time believing this song was not intentionally crafted to reach a larger audience, and as a result it is terrible.

But the rest of their new album, Reptilian, makes up for that trainwreck. At its core, this is Dimmu Borgir-style black metal, with toned-down keyboards instead of the Prague Philharmonic. The DB style is most evident on the hard-driving "The Awakening". But the sound is also clearly influenced by power metal: there are rasp/sung choruses on several tracks, like the slower "Dark As Moonless Light", and a lot of power metal style guitar embellishments on tracks like "Judgement" [sic]. Even the fantasy-themed lyrics are present throughout, and "Leaving the Mortal Flesh" has swordfighting sounds in the background.

It's a very strange juxtaposition, and works at times, like the killer opening track "Dragon Iconography". At other times, though, it seems a little disjointed and awkward. And that awful "The Dragontower" comes in at a really bad time, disrupting the album's flow.

The Verdict: Keep of Kalessin has a unique, power metal influenced black metal style, and they clearly have talent. When it works, it's really amazing, and when it doesn't, it's still pretty good. But the flow is disrupted midway through by the single, and their authenticity will definitely be questioned. I give it 3 out of 5 stars.

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