The Norwegian colossus known as Keep of Kalessin is back with their follow-up to the album Kolossus and are breathing fire like the dragons and other assorted reptiles that permeate this new chapter for the band. The boys from KoK deliver a good dose of the epic death/black metal that long time fans expect but also tread into new territory that should bring many more new listeners into the fold.
Some of their fan base feels let down by the bands expansion on this album. Fueled by Keep of Kalessin's entry into the Eurovision 2010 song contest, many felt that the band had gone soft. The song they entered, "The Dragontower", is definitely lighter by their standards with it's cleaner vocal style and an almost heavy metal guitar solo but it is still a solid piece of work and the song that I find stuck in my head long after playing the disc. Give the guys their due, over a quarter of a million people voted for them and I am sure that many were surprised what the remainder of Reptilian held in store for them. Something like this can only be good for all bands in the genre as what they need in this new day and age is exposure and KoK gave the whole realm of black metal a terrific shot in the arm.
I have to wonder about someone who's first exposure to the band being the Eurovision contest and then purchasing this disc and listening to it for the first time. The epic start of "Dragon Iconography" falls into place for what they know about the band from their limited exposure but when Obsidian Claw unleashes his guitar prowess and the blast beats from drummer Vyl starts tattooing the eardrums the newbie might start into cardiac arrest even before Thebon and his growling and snarling threaten to chew up the unsuspecting. Kicking off the album with this kind of vintage Keep of Kalessin sound with its grandiose approach tells all who come to the party that the band is still at the top of their game and one of the best at what they do.
Visions of Druids or another arcane sect come to mind as the chant like chorus hits you in "The Awakening". It is easy to envision the worshipers in a Conan like world praying to their reptilian god as Thebon's growls sound like they are from the pits of Hell and the band is at their majestic best with this one. Fire breathing metal in all its gothic glory is what these guys are best at and they deliver it once more.
The band goes a bit old school on this disc when they strip down the sound and blast off at warp speed for the blistering "Leaving The Mortal Flesh" and the churning, brooding "Dark As Moonlight Night". On the later song the band uses clean vocals as a counter point to the gloomy delivery of Thebon to great effect. It seems that Keep of Kalessin has discovered that diversity can be a good thing.
Returning to the epic style with the dynamic "The Divine Land", the guys sound a little bit like Crematory as they bring together both the light and dark sides of the band in a creative way that even manages to capture a touch of Viking metal amidst the mayhem. This one is seven minutes of pure metal bliss for those that love a little grandiose flourish with their headbanging.
But for all the goodness you hear up until this point, they have most certainly saved the best for last. The fourteen minutes plus that make up "Reptilian Majesty" begins in the vortex called melodic black metal and as it spins faster and faster it sucks in all the surrounding musical styles that are within Keep of Kalessin's reach. The barren sound of a keyboard which is the background for an almost whispered passage gives way to a terrific NWOBHM type of guitar solo. Soaring metal sections with flamboyant extravagance turn into a gothic chant. Slow churning heavy guitar work suddenly becomes a furious bit of speed metal. All of this is wrapped around the core sound that fans of KoK know so well. Keep of Kalessin are the real deal and proves once again why they are one of the up and coming players in this field.
I can see where this disc could generate negative reviews though. The band has really spread their wings this time around and some will see it as a sell out instead of a broadening of their horizons. I see it as a band that is maturing and not willing to pigeon hole themselves. I for one love their approach this time as much as I liked what they blew me away with on their last disc. Each has its own unique personality and I can live with and enjoy both!
1. Dragon Iconography
2. The Awakening
4. The Dragontower
5. Leaving The Mortal Flesh
6. Dark As Moonless Night
7. The Divine Land
8. Reptilian Majesty