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Keep Of Kalessin - "Kolossus" (CD)

Keep Of Kalessin - "Kolossus" CD cover image

"Kolossus" track listing:

1. Origin (2:28)
2. A New Empire’s Birth (5:50)
3. Against the Gods (8:46)
4. The Rising Sign (7:27)
5. Warmonger (5:20)
6. Escape the Union (7:49)
7. The Mark of Power (4:55)
8. Kolossus (7:15)
9. Ascendant (4:31)

Reviewed by on July 28, 2008

"Melody is the name of the game for “Kolossus,” even during the heaviest and most distorted parts of the album."

It’s easy to see why Keep of Kalessin has been touring alongside the monsters of the Norwegian metal scene like Dimmu Borgir and why a concentrated media blitz has been unleashed by record label Nuclear Blast touting the band's prominent future in the music industry. “Kolossus” has sealed the band’s place as heirs to the symphonic black metal throne who will champion the style in the years to come. With something to love for nearly every fan of Norwegian metal, the album clings to a thin veneer of the cold furious brutality that originally spawned the genre and will generate interested for black metal traditionalists, but also takes frequent forays into twisting melodic guitar performances that will hold the attention of people looking for more progressive and mature music.

Melody is the name of the game for “Kolossus,” even during the heaviest and most distorted parts of the album. The ways the guitar melodies are composed lend a peculiarly cheerful characteristic to the songs, which seem odd at first but quickly establish themselves as a legitimate metal technique. The upbeat impression is most prevalent on “A New Empire’s Birth,” which sounds almost jovial in spite of hellish growls and shredding guitars. There are only a few rare instances when the album descends into an air of infernal oppressiveness with demonically distorted deep vocals or sinister keyboard sound effects. Setting them apart from other bands in the same vein, Keep of Kalessin never allow the synthesized sounds to ever take control of the music. Their guitar and bass players show enough skill with their instruments that they never need electronic effects to be the driving force behind their symphonic sound. The drumming takes a similar tack, keeping up a fast and heavy pace but never getting bogged down into limitless blast beasts and frequently figuring in prominent cymbal use.

“Kolossus” takes great pains to distinguish itself from similar albums and prevent itself from ever being stamped with a single identifiable label. The vocals frequently change their range, style, and depth. Although the majority of the vocals are a familiar indiscernible low growl, an abrasive but clearly understandable yelling is mixed in during several songs. Scarce use of sweeping operatic clean singing is also thrown in that will more than please fans of epic Viking metal. The widest divergence from the status quo occurs in “The Mark of Power,” which features harsh whispering and ponderous, spacey guitar riffs that sound quite a bit like something the band Tiamat would come up with. The album is never afraid to take a break from the standard full speed pedal to the floor sonic assault to go off on melodic guitar tangents or even work through more calm instrumental segments to keep the songs from meshing together and becoming forgettable. The seven and a half minute marathon song “The Rising Sun” takes a full three minutes to interlude that completely drops the drums and vocals and just goes for an inspiring keyboard and guitar pairing.

The heaviest and most furious parts are saved for last, with the title track and ending song “Ascendant.” Distorted guitar parts that repeat themselves and escalate in strength throughout the songs give off a thunderous call to march onward to glorious war and several grandiose guitar solos finish the album off strong. The final songs also dip heavily into a more domineering and harsh mood than is typical of the earlier songs.

With masterful guitar work, melody worthy of a prog band, and just enough malevolence to keep the whole affair together, “Kolossus” is a new milestone in the symphonic black metal genre that will undoubtedly be emulated by many bands in the future.

Highs: Amazing guitar melodies and restrained keyboards

Lows: Some of the vocal stylings work better than others, and a few parts could stand to be a little more brutal

Bottom line: Heir to the Norwegian symphonic black metal throne

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)