Norwegian black metallers KEEP OF KALESSIN‘s outstanding last album Armada positioned the band to take it a step higher. With a new label home in Nuclear Blast Records and new album in Kolossus, KEEP OF KALESSIN have their sights set on becoming the next big band from Norway. APESHIT caught up with the band (sans drummer Vyl) right before their set in Anaheim, CA opening for BEHEMOTH and DIMMU BORGIR to talk about their ambitions, the process of creating Kolossus, and continuing the legacy of Norwegian black metal.
APESHIT: Alongside DIMMU BORGIR and BEHEMOTH, KEEP OF KALESSIN are on one of the biggest underground metal package tours so far this year. How’s everything going so far?
Obsidian C.: Amazing so far… being able to play for these kinds of venues. This is basically the best start in the U.S. we could ever [have] hoped for.
Wizziac: It’s just amazing how many people show up. Like you said, it’s an underground metal tour, and people are only here to see extreme metal. I think that’s actually quite unique to have a big tour like this for only the darker side of metal.
APESHIT: Have you been having fun with the guys from DIMMU and BEHEMOTH?
Obsidian C: Yes, we are getting along very good.
APESHIT: Are you guys going to be playing songs from the first two albums and EP?
Obsidian C: Well, we only have a 30 minute set and with our song lengths, that means actually just four songs. So we have chosen two songs from Armada, one from the new album, Kolossus–which is not out yet, it will be out here in America on June 10th–and then one song from the Reclaim EP.
APESHIT: Armada is a very crucial album, a turning point for the band. You guys got a lot of widespread attention and critical acclaim. Also, the band’s sound evolved a lot, incorporating other styles of metal. What influenced you to expand your sound on Armada?
Obsidian C: It was just a natural evolution of the band to take that direction. I think if you listen to Agnen, the second album, you can hear a lot of same riffing styles. But the problem was lack of money or lack of production, the Agnen album never really sounded as good as it could have been. And the band was much younger, and we didn’t have any experience and skills to pull it off until Armada. So I think it has always been a natural evolution that, finally on Armada, came together as it should.
APESHIT: With Kolossus coming out, what can metal fans expect from the album?
Obsidian C: You can expect a very diverse album [from] a band that is not afraid of doing something different and a band that is not afraid of breaking the mold of black metal. It’s a very big and epic sounding album. It’s like the biggest songs from Armada taken to the next level. I think it will be a very natural successor to Armada.
APESHIT: Tell us about your own rehearsal studio which you’ve utilized for the recording of Kolossus. With that in mind, how did the recording process for Kolossus go?
Obsidian C: I think with this process, we probably couldn’t have it any other way. We like to explore a lot in the studio instead of just rehearsing and then going into the studio for, maybe, just two weeks and recording without enough rehearsal. Especially when it comes to the vocals, it’s important to try different angles and different approaches to the vocal styles. So it’s really important to have enough time to explore that stuff. But then again, it’s really hard to keep the band’s spirit up for three or four months of recording. It’s both good and bad, but it’s a challenge to stay in the studio that long. We actually always waited on the vocals until we’re actually finished with the recording of all other instruments. We have done that with all our previous albums. It’s just a natural way for me to work.
APESHIT: You noted in your studio report that you are only taking a week off between recording Kolossus and the next KEEP OF KALESSIN album. Why such the quick turnaround?
Obsidian C: We were supposed to do that. We were supposed to start the next album, but the production of Kolossus took a lot longer than expected. So we didn’t actually have time because we had a few shows coming up, and we had to get ready for that. Then this tour came along, so it was actually impossible for us to start recording the next album. But we’ll start doing pre-production and stuff. We have actually started pre-production on some of the songs. But we’ll start when get back from this tour.
APESHIT: With that original goal, were there ever any plans to release Kolossus as a double album?
Obsidian C: We were thinking about that early on, but then we decided to focus on getting one album out right now. And then we’ll do the next. After the next album, we are actually thinking of doing a double album that will be a huge, epic thing!
APESHIT: With the response that Armada has a received and the band’s increased activity, would you say that now is the most creative and exciting time for the band?
Obsidian C: Definitely. It’s been a hell of a ride since the release of Armada. In the past two years, we have done so much more than all the 13 years prior to that. So, definitely the most exciting period.
APESHIT: Why did you decide to license the album to Nuclear Blast in the U.S.?
Obsidian C: Because Nuclear Blast is a very good label, and we were looking for partners who were really fans of the band and want to work with the band. If you look at the record that Nuclear Blast has with all the bands from Europe doing pretty well in the States…and because they believe the most in the band, it was the natural thing to do. They really are fans of the band.
APESHIT: Where do you envision taking the band? Do you want to elevate to DIMMU or BEHEMOTH status? Or are there obstacles limiting what you can achieve like work, school, or family?
Thebon: I think the goal is to go as far as we can. We don’t have much [inaudible]… this is what we do.
Wizziac: I would quit my day job if that was the case.
Obsidian C: We definitely want to be the next DIMMU or even METALLICA for that matter [laughs]. That’s quite impossible, but of course we want to go as far as possible. Making music is our living and everyone in the band has that as our goal, our top priority.
APESHIT: A great example of a fast-rising band is BEHEMOTH, because they were on Avantgarde Music like you were, and they were licensed for Olympic Recordings in America. Then Olympic went out of business and Century Media decided to take on BEHEMOTH. Then it just took off from there, and they’re playing all these tours. Now you see all these BEHEMOTH shirts out there!
Obsidian C: We will definitely work hard to do that. But it’s also a matter of keeping our network with all the correct contacts to get all the right kind of tours and stuff. So that’s really important, to tour a lot in the States. And, we are willing to do that, but it’s not always that easy. We are not big enough to headline yet, even though we meet fans everyday that say, “Hey, you guys should come and play more often.” We want to… if someone would give us the opportunity.
APESHIT: Every member of KEEP OF KALESSIN is extremely talented as musicians. Do you ever feel that there is no limit to what you can do technically and creatively?
Obsidian C: I think there are a lot of bands better than us, individually. You have all kinds of crazy bands that have guitarists with great technique and drummers who are just insane. But, the most important thing for us is to create atmosphere and our own sounds like we are our own band. We don’t want to sound like anyone else, and making good songs is the most important part for us… and adding playing skills to the atmosphere without compromising the music is the most important thing.
APESHIT: Obsidian C., your guitar playing style is unique. You mix different strumming patterns and accentuate notes well. Despite the fast, busy playing, there is a lot of clarity. How did you develop your style of guitar playing?
Obsidian C: It’s kind of hard to explain how I developed the style. It’s been a priority to sound like no one else. I started out playing heavy metal stuff, then got into black metal. Now I’m just incorporating all the different guitar styles I’ve been playing all along, like blues and stuff like that… especially thrash metal. I always think melody when I’m making the riffs and while I’m thinking of the different chords while the melody is progressing. It’s just been the same with the band. It’s been a natural development for me to evolve in that direction. It just happened on its own because of the melodies and atmospheres I try to create. A couple of us here have become more aware of how I should do it and evolve that unique style even more.
APESHIT: Black metal has come a long way. No longer are there $30 import CDs and kids in high schools are wearing DARKTHRONE or EMPEROR shirts. What do you guys think of Norwegian black metal in 2008 and how it has grown?
Obsidian C: I think its great to see that it has been accepted as a leading genre. It’s almost as important as any other metal genre. I also think that there was a certain atmosphere with the [black metal] albums from the 90’s. I also think it’s a collective goal to try to retain some of that atmosphere because all of those bands have changed so much that the atmosphere is lacking on their new albums. So i think that it’s important to keep that certain atmosphere that was [prominent] in ’93-’97, maybe. There were so many good albums coming from Norway. I think that was really something unique in that era. As far as album sales and how big the bands are now, I think it’s great that the bands are much bigger. Everyone deserves it.