Two years ago Keep of Kalessin stunned us with their album Armada. It was clear that a new major force had entered the stage of extreme and black metal. Now this band from the Norwegian city of Trondheim is back with the sequel. Entitled Kolossus the album will be released Friday this week, the sixth of June.
Keep of Kalessin has been around for almost ten years. Patiently building and refining the expression, the creative centre of the band Obsidian C has gathered a group around him capable of carrying out visions and playing songs that demand great instrumental mastery. Keep of Kalessin is a musician‘s band with many of the members, including Obsidian C, having spent time as hired hands in other great black metal units, notably Satyricon. This professionalism, and the ability to carry out grand and complex musical visions, is at the heart of Keep of Kalessin’s music.
They call it “epic extreme metal”, which signifies that they belong to the black metal genre but also move beyond it in some ways; especially in terms of its purism. It is an expressed goal of this band to always manifest complete freedom in the field of music. In their own words this means that they are true to the individuality that lies at the heart of black metal, at the same time as they are not afraid to breech the norms and stereotypes of the genre. In the eyes of Obsidian C most of these norms and limitations are grounded in insufficient technical ability. Keep of Kalessin stand for the opposite of such conservatism: the music defies any “dogmatic” limitations and their songs are technically brilliant and radiant pieces.
The sheer effortlessness of the playing gives the aggressive music an airborne, at times ethereal quality. This is perhaps the grain of the epic dimension that Keep of Kalessin are so good at invoking where so many others fail.
Kolossus takes up the narrative thread from Armada. The songs are grand epic pieces, with many layers and dimensions and atmospheric soundscapes. The discernable difference from the previous outing is that Kolossus is even faster, yet at the same time more melodic and more nuanced with e.g. a wide range in the vocal expression
One Norwegian critic writes that “Kolossus sounds like a living storm.” And it is certainly true that the lift and the might of the forces unleashed resemble the engulfing perfection of a storm; i.e. one that you experience aesthetically and not, say, as a sailor.
The aesthetics of Keep of Kalessin are exactly about this unleashing of organic, synchronic perfection in a package that is fast and aggressive and “black”. The juxtaposition of these two aspects is what lifts the music and makes it soar; makes the brutality and aggression open up into the epic and visionary realm of experience.
Kolossus was recorded live; with no overdubs and no “cutting and pasting” if we are to believe the sleeve. This is no small feat, for as pointed out; this is fast and complex stuff. And one could say that it is such a recording process that gives Kolossus the character of the breathing, dynamic and even enigmatic piece of music it has been described as. It is like the songs keep things in reserve, things that the music cannot open up for, but only outline. The dynamic between lingering, beautiful acoustic stretches, and the full onslaught of extreme metal at full throttle and precision –the way this is subtly done with lingering remnants of one mode sustained into the other- is a way of not just telling a story but of giving voice to history itself; in its enigmatic ebb and flow of time. Keep of Kalessin manage to take out the abstract potential in music in order to manifest the discontinuity of time in history; i.e. that in our memory time is broken up into pieces and fragments that interweave and remain hidden within each other. Keep of Kalessin make music that somehow invokes the deep experiences of alienation in this discontinuity; feelings that are both brutal and beautiful, and therefore epic.
With the rise of Keep of Kalessin the genre of extreme / black metal has not only been enriched with another band capable of becoming protagonists of the scene, but also with new dimensions of the music itself. Their recently completed tour of the US as support for Dimmu Borgir and Behemoth, proved that the huge market in America is ready to embrace this band.. And some critics indeed predict that the time will soon come when the headline / support order has been reversed and Keep of Kalessin are on the throne of extreme metal.
Anyway, Kolossus is out on Friday in Europe and next week in America. Due to the success and sweeping acclaim of Armada, expectations are extremely high among metal fans.
Many of them will get to see Keep of Kalessin at festivals this summer; in Norway and Germany. British and American fans will have to wait until the fall, when the band goes back across the seas.