Saturday, March 21, 2015

Keep of Kalessin - Epistomology [2015]

Nestled deep in Norway's forbidden woods (or maybe not so deep?) are bands who actually seek to achieve something further than the genre-standard second wave black metal bound by the laws of their immortalized forebears, and one such act is Keep Kalessin. These Norsemen have been going strong for years now, hot on the wheels of ''Reptilian'' and ''Kolossus'', of which the former garnered somewhat mixed reactions in the public opinion as a desultory exhibition of 'modernized' black/death metal. Keep Of Kalessin is the perfect starting point black metal beginners to rally at, with epic overtures and accessibly hooking voracity eschewing much of the grimness of traditional black metal, and it remains within these boundaries which they've conventionalized that we see ''Epistomology''.  Safe to say that on this record the Norsemen traverse within the well-known paths, hardly straying from the safe harbor, kind of like a bunch of grounded black metal teenagers nicely buckled up and ready to be taken to a trip to the forest... if you don't fancy the notion, never mind, because ''Epistomology'' still delivers the kind of potent black/death wizardry many fans were asking for, just without a whole lot of twists to the tale.

This is a much less opaque offering than most of other Norwegian black or black/death exports I've heard, with walls of generously spasmodic tremolo ascensions and descents weaving up with ferocious percussive backbone, almost like what Behemoth would have sounded like in the mid/early 2000's with a wash of production sheen. Keep of Kalessin have always had some interest in dragons, mythology and similarly fantastical themes woven out of a power metal flair, but these themes work rather deliciously with a background of lunar overtures and choirs balancing the atmospheric adherence of the record. Surely enough songs like ''The Spiritual Relief'' or the title track play out these atmospheric tendencies with some delicacy albeit with exhaustive longitude. The clean vocal delivery is something which went strangely amiss for a guy whose always been a fan of wooing and emotionally powerful cleans in black metal (bands like Enslaved or Nokturnal Mortum with their folksy attitude perfect this trend) but the hovering balustrades of grandiose vocal delivery on the record don't always fall into that category of uplifting glory which the band seeks to channel as a veritable juxtaposition of the taut harshness of some of the more death/thrash oriented riff work, though they still manage to capture a certain degree of luster and aural satisfaction in the listener. In fact, choral sequences like that of ''The Spiritual Relief''' lack very little to remove them from a Dragonforce chorus... not the most desirable of prospects perhaps, but in general it works out because the raspier vocals always induce some level of excitement.

That said, the major selling point for me on this record has been the accumulation of tracks like ''Dark Divinity'' or ''Introspection'' which combine the delectable thrashing ooze of modern Destruction or Exodus with with nearly post-black metal dissonance, making for some listening value if I was to evaluate things so pragmatically. The final tracks are short and fast as fuck, like proper grindcore songs fed power and death metal until their veins overflowed. The masters of the Keep are not just seamless combiners of modern black and death (it's probably a good idea to downplay the influence of the 'black metal' tag since there's as much black metal on this album as there is sunshine in Norway, which shouldn't be too much) but practitioners of technicality with sufficiently athletic riffs to make length of some terribly long songs worthwhile, at least to a degree. This isn't Spawn of Possession or Necrophagist we're talking about, but a far more melodic output redolent of, well, itself. All told, the songs are never good enough to subsume a high proportion of your attention, but there 2-3 individual pieces that will certainly be repeated for some time. At times the redundancy of songs with 9+ minutes of run time can feel like the a long, boring wait at the dental department while someone is rubbing gossamer against your ears. Moments of sheer blandness are very scarce though, and in general, even though this is not on par with ''Kolossus'' or such, it is a good record, yet in remembrance of what I said at the beginning about its accessibility as a black metal record, it will probably get you stabbed with an iron cross if you ever try to show it to your local corpse-painted black metal purists.

Dark Divinity

Rating: 75%

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