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On disc: Keep Of Kalessin

Reptilian - Mike Thompson - 9 stars


(Nuclear Blast - 2010)

It has now been several months since Keep Of Kalessin shocked the metal underground with the news that they were entering that showcase of trans-European musical mediocrity known as the Eurovision Song Contest. Ok, they didn't reach the final stages but the seeds of doubt were already sewn in the minds of many. Had Obsidian C's crew finally sold out? Thankfully this album dispenses our fears in one fell swoop.
In recent years Keep Of Kalessin could never have really been described as a truly underground band anymore anyway. They play, in their own words, epic extreme metal which has roots in black metal but is pretty far removed from the majority of bands in this genre. 2006's landmark album, Armada, showed that this band was capable of fusing brutality and melody in order to create excellent songs and transport you to the fantasy world inspired by American writer Ursula Le Guin. 2008's Kolossus was a flawed album not in the same league as Armada but still showcased the band's talent. With Reptilian the Norwegian quartet seem to have found the perfect balance of black metal harshness, power metal cheesiness and film score-esque epicness.
This is not an album for black metal purists as – and let me make this quite clear – this is NOT black metal. It is extreme metal with elements of black and death metal. It could probably be most easily compared with Dimmu Borgir than Darkthrone, even though the sound of the album is actually quite different with less emphasis on grand, symphonic overtones in favor of a more guitar driven album. If you are a metal fan of a more open-minded nature you will find a lot to enjoy in this album. It contains eight tracks, most clocking in around the five or six minute mark, and is a thoroughly enjoyable listen from start to finish.
This album should be embraced by those who like the more power metal inspired extreme metal such as Children Of Bodom, Ensiferum, Thronar etc as well as those who enjoy Rhapsody Of Fire and Fairyland but crave something with a little more bite. It combines headbanging heaviness with sing-along choruses and excellent songcrafting. Even the Eurovision single - The Dragontower - isn't as bad as the detractors would make out. Easily my favorite Keep Of Kalessin album so far.

9 stars

Mike Thompson


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