KEEP OF KALESSIN have been in the 2nd tier in terms of popularity because their big brothers in EMPEROR, IMMORTAL, and SATYRICON have infamous pasts. These Norwegian metalheads try and match their counterparts with their versatility and improved musicianship.
With an acoustic beginning and lush keyboards, “Dragon Iconography” starts off sounding like KOVENANT’s Nexus Polaris, but the crunchy guitar tone, intense blast beats, and thick production immediately shows otherwise. The vast improvement in production makes the previous effort, Kolossus, and its trash can sounding snare drum pale in comparison. Sometimes the vocals come off slightly Shagarath (DIMMU BORGIR) sounding, but tracks like “The Awakening” feature choir and clean vocal parts, and counter the usual black metal riffs and aggressive double bass typically adapted in this genre. Reptilian tries to balance itself out by varying the tempos within all the tracks.
While “The Dragontower” is a weaker tune, which includes a cheesy rock ‘n roll chorus line, “Dark As Moonless Night” is a slow and heavy track, laced with equally slow, but melodic solos to finish. When it’s time to get down and dirty, however, extreme tracks like “Judgment,” “Leaving the Mortal Flesh,” and “The Divine Land” blast away with thick bass backlines and blast beats that would make any extreme metal drummer proud.
“Reptilian Majesty,” the final track, can be viewed in two parts; the first part being the black metal portion, which serves as a fitting end to a well-rounded disc. After a short ambient interlude, the second half of the 14-minute track begins, which is a slow, metal/rock/blues-solo inspired jam before returning to its roots and finishing with a furious black metal attack.
Reptilian is a long album with long songs, but that just means multiple listens will yield different results for the better. KEEP OF KALESSIN, while not pure black metal, have not abandoned their black metal roots, and the album is still very extreme, fast, and brutal, which should not disappoint older or newer fans of the band. (Nuclear Blast Records)