Keep of Kalessin – Reptilian
released June 8, 2010 on Nuclear Blast Records
Call it what you will, but fate/chance/destiny/coincidence is a funny thing. As I began to write my review for Reptilian, I received a promo invite from Nuclear Blast for the latest Rhapsody of Fire album. That band landed on my lap and wowed me some years back with Power of the Dragonflame, a powerful concept piece to end a three-album saga. Like that band, Keep of Kalessin is keen to construct unified bodies of work, as they have done since their proper solidified reformation on 2006’s Armada. I see a similar story arc that continues through their last album, Kolossus, to now literally stare you straight in the face on this latest effort, their fifth overall.
Reptilian starts with fierce, symphonic black majesty. Both “Dragon Iconography” and “The Awakening” employ effective synth in their darkened melodies, most often with vocal choir effects. And speaking of vocals, this album displays a cleaner side of Torbjørn Schei (aka Thebon) that echoes the gentler side of Joe Duplantier (Gojira). This mostly works just fine, as the Norwegian quartet inches ever closer to commercial appeal. However, they may have jumped the Greenland shark with “The Dragontower”. The album’s first single (a hopeful for the 2010 Eurovision song contest, but came in 3rd in Norway’s Melodi Grand Prix)––is catchy in a tepid sort of way, but mars Reptilian as a whole, and somehow taints the two songs that bookend it.
The methodical “Dark as Moonless Night” slows down the proceedings, but this is a welcome departure. We hear how KoK may ramp the speed down, yet remain heavy and memorable. Also chant-worthy is the refrain on “The Divine Land”, which musically shifts back into high-gear.
“Reptilian Majesty” appropriately ends in grand fashion with a fourteen-minute epic. Though it unfolds in deliberate movements, I found it difficult to retain interest for the duration, particularly during the keyboard noodling and muttered lines that arrive four minutes in. Perhaps it would function better if it were tied to some visuals, because I kept checking my player during the entire midsection to see how much was left. So much for envelopment.
Like their countrymen Dimmu Borgir, or the celebrated/accursed Cradle of Filth, Keep of Kalessin is high on concept and bombast when it comes to their craft. While they may not be for the blackest kvlt, KoK is ideal for those that keep extreme music on their periphery, and are comfortable with just a little corpsepaint.
Try: 1, 2, 6, 7
01. Dragon Iconography
02. The Awakening
04. The Dragontower
05. Leaving The Mortal Flesh
06. Dark As Moonless Night
07. The Divine Land
08. Reptilian Majesty