Release DetailsLABEL Candlelight
RELEASED ON 5/16/2006
Keep of Kalessin
posted on 7/2006 By:
I’ll spare you, dear reader, with the majority of the history lesson concerning Keep of Kalessin… but we’ll let it suffice to say that the past and present involvement of black metal scene heavyweights Frost (Satyricon, 1349), Obsidian Claw (Satyricon), and Attila Csihar (Aborym, Mayhem) is only one of many dimensions that have helped propel Keep of Kalessin from a relatively obscure Norwegian band into extreme metal connoisseurs.
Armada does signal a paradigm shift for Keep of Kalessin, separating themselves distinctly and inexorably from the traditional black metal flair of Agnen – A Journey Through the Dark, pushing further down the road of their progressive thrash tinged epic black metal sound established on their phenomenal Reclaim EP. Even from their early days, Keep of Kalessin was never just another Norwegian black metal band, as their razor sharp attack has always been a strong amalgam of multifarious aspects.
The musicianship displayed by each member reaches levels of intensity hardly reached by other acts. The weight of Armada is carried mainly by the guitarwork; Obsidian Claw’s riffs blend flowing Swedish melodicism with mercilessly chaotic black metal mayhem, shredding in about every imaginable sense of the word. The compositional structure and delivery exhibits equal levels of nuanced intricacy and all out frenzied rage, combining both into a particularly scathing mix. Original Keep of Kalessin drummer Vyl makes a triumphant return with a baleful, precise style delivering torrid blasts and well placed tom/cymbal work. New vocalist Thebon’s unconventional style sees him shifting from standard black metal snarls and rasps to clean lines and melodic shouts allowing for a truly textured and dynamic listening experience ignored or unexplored by comparable bands.
For me a mark of a great musician besides sheer speed and technicality (which I assure you Armada has plenty) is their ability to keep things interesting. Versatility and dynamic contrast within songs is displayed abundantly though there isn’t nearly as much of a discrepancy between the material itself as is between individual riffs and many listeners will probably feel like the album bleeds together a bit too much though I felt it only detracted slightly from the overall experience. Moments of greatness are not to be missed; The scathingly melodic “Crown of the Kings” to the heavily thrash infused, climactic explosion of “The Black Uncharted” along with the blisteringly fast “Vengeance Rising” start off Armada with impressive bombast while the epic finale of “The Wealth of Darkness” and rollicking namesake cut “Armada” end the album in a torrent of deftly placed destruction.
I’ve been positive up to here, but my main issue with Armada is a serious one. Amongst all the progressive pomp and circumstance and grandiose black metal riffing there are these oddly out of place moments of mediocrity and even moments of pure boredom. Many songs carry an overwhelming air of overt simplicity that heavily detracts from the stellar bombast of the surrounding material “Many Are We” has a terribly annoying, bouncy gait while “Winged Watcher” and "Into the Fire" sound like filler compared to the rest of the material with a refined, yet horribly mundane sound. In fact, I’ll go as far as to say that the whole middle section of the album is flat out terrible, leaning heavily on simplistic compositional structures and mediocre black thrash riffing.
However, I’m only this hard on Keep of Kalessin because I know for a fact that they’re capable of crafting excellent metal that is tremendously incredible and undeniably enjoyable. Honestly, if it weren’t for the occasional drawbacks preventing this from becoming a truly magnificent release, I probably would have heralded this as a potential for the year's finest, but the fact of the matter is that there are areas which hold Armada back from its potential greatness despite its prodigious scope and immense delivery. This comes highly recommended; just understand that it’s not a perfect album.
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