An Interview With Obsidian Claw From Keep of Kalessin
Keep of Kalessin is one of the most interesting and original bands in metal today, managing to still gain an audience despite ignoring every contemporary trend and emerge stronger for it. After the success of the band's fourth-place single for Norway's selection for the Eurovision Song Contest last year, the band has managed to gain much more publicity and has remained in the spotlight ever since. Metal Underground was lucky enough to catch up with the band's founder Obsidian Claw at Reggie's Rock Club in Chicago during the group's tour with Sepultura.
Matt Dasher: Starting with Armada, your sound changed a lot. There isn't really a genre tag that can be applied to your music. What kind of metal do you play and do you have a name for it?
Obsidian Claw: We call it epic extreme metal. That’s because it's epic in the sense that it's melodic and often with a big atmosphere. Our inspiration is from big epic war movies and a lot of fantasy. Extreme metal is the blanket term for everything from heavy metal to black metal, death metal and thrash metal. So epic extreme metal defines us pretty well even if it's a very loose term. We don’t label our music that much. Nowadays, we're playing a form of extreme heavy metal more than traditional black metal.
Matt: Do you ever worry about other bands coming in and copying your style?
Obsidian: No, if there were other bands coming in and copying our style that would be great because then we could get a wave of epic extreme metal bands. It is a genre that is not much known or out there even though it's the best of black, death and thrash metal. I think that that's a metal style for the future now that so many bands sound the same. I would love for other bands to start playing some new types of guitar riffs rather than just moving the same old power chords around, which I'm pretty tired of.
Matt: Did the Eurovision song contest bring you a bunch of new fans due to your single "The Dragontower?"
Obsidian: I think we got a lot of attention in Norway for it and won some new fans but as far as popularity goes, I think with something like that, you get overexposed. People get tired of seeing your band name and hearing about your band every fucking day for six months in the mainstream media. We probably lost a few fans and we gained a few. I think that the band is maybe on the same level as we were before in Norway and maybe in all of Europe. Over here the people don't know much about Eurovsion so it doesn’t affect much in America.
Matt: So "The Dragontower" didn't change much for Keep of Kalessin and wasn't really the watershed moment that I though it was over in Europe.
Obsidian: We had a hit single over in Norway but I think that Keep of Kalessin is still on the long path of climbing up and building brick by brick. It isn't a shortcut to success or anything. We're still a metal band. The mainstream crowd that got hooked to The Dragontower won't necessarily be open to our other songs. We feel that we're on the same level that we've been on since before "Reptilian" and we need to keep building from there.
Matt: "Reptilian" was released a while ago. Are there plans for a new album?
Obsidian: We have the idea and the title and we have a few songs but it’ll be at least a year before we record. Reptilian is only a year old and we try to release albums every two years. It'll be at least another year before the new album comes.
Matt: Is The Dragontower or anything from Armada going to be played on subsequent tours when you have more time during a longer set? I'd think that "The Dragontower" would be more of a staple?
Obsidian: On the next tour we've been confirmed for direct support for Mayhem so I hope that we will get a longer set on that tour which means that we'll also bring in some older songs, maybe something from the reclaim EP and maybe a song from "Armada" because we're also re-releasing the EP with some bonus tracks in June. So it'll be a great opportunity to play some of the Reclaim songs for the US audience and we'll also try to bring in a song of two from "Armada."
Matt: What continent is that tour going to be on?
Obsidian: It's going to be in North America.
Mat: What month is it going to be?
Obsidian: Around November or December.
Matt: "Reptilian" has had more publicity behind the record, at least in America which brought you more exposure. You're now supporting Nile and Sepultura. Do you think that it's good to have more of a face in the North American scene and how does it feel to break into that new market?
Obsidian: It's great that North America is starting to recognize the band name and know who we are and we have a growing fan base over here which is great. It’s also great to be able to tour with Nile and Sepultura and we just try to bring in new fans every day. We see that we win new fans over every day and we talk to people that come up to us and never even heard about the band before and they say that they loved it and are going to check out our albums. It's still a long way to go, the U.S. market is big but that also means that you have to work a lot to actually get through to all these people here. So we have a long way to go for us so we have to work hard to bring our music to all our possible fans over here.
Matt: How does the European scene differ from the one in North America. Are there real differences between fans or tastes between continents?
Obsidian: Not really. I think that metal fans are metal fans no matter where they are in the world and that the fans over here react the same way that they do in Europe. I think that we still have more fans in Europe but I like the way the U.S. market is going for us and hopefully we'll do headlining tours over here.
Matt: Good meting you.
Obsidian: Good meeting you too.
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