KEEP OF KALESSIN stand as the bastion which represents the exact point where raw/traditional and Symphonic Black Metal join, not clearly favoring either camp. We have rough vocals interacting with and layering the cold melodies at the heart of the genre with the occasional synth work flirting with the composition’s posterior. The band is dedicated to this unique approach and utilizes their developed sound to promote an epic set of recordings which often attempt to bring a hint of progression into the sub-genre. This is, admittedly, a worthy goal in attempting to stand out from the pack, but the end result is merely satisfying and far from perfection.
I must preface the meat of the review with an overt complaint; the clean production and triggered drum effect is handicapping this band. This is my chief problem with the album, as the guitars spit forth a solid chunk of riffs, but the atmosphere suffers from the sterile sound. Vyl beats the hell out of his kit, rarely easing up on the double-bass and thus subjecting the listener to a frequent barrage of triggering which gives the album a bit of a cheesy and plastic feel. Both of these factors attack like rabid dogs attempting to take the legs out from under “Armada”.
This album transcends mediocrity on several instances due to ingenuity and clever songwriting. Tracks like the opener, “Crown Of Kings”, attack the listener headlong for extended periods of time (7 minutes in this case) with complicated song structures utilizing a host of tempo changes and riff barrages which heighten the atmosphere and keep you on your toes. It features everything from the blasting and militant intro, to the mid-paced bridge of rough clean vocals and finally reaching that stellar DARKTHRONE melody-oriented conclusion. This works, this is bringing in a sliver of progression to the solid foundation the forefathers of the scene built and creating a somewhat complex force which avoids being bombastic. We see this sense of experimentation with the classic Black Metal sound creep up a handful of additional times before the album is through, including a stellar acoustic passage found in “The Black Uncharted” and even a bit of Thrash riffing injected into “Many Are We”.
The whole sound is decidedly influenced by old, but that synth work and symphonic undertone creeps up quite often. The moments of “Winged Watcher” where the listener is afforded a slight breath highlights this facet prominently. You get that light and strained guitar work floating across a backdrop of sustained keyboard work My stomach generally collapses in on itself when I witness such inclusions in that of Metal, but KEEP OF KALESSIN manage to at least pull me through the experience without losing total interest.
It’s quite simple; if you enjoy Black Metal and can deal with a light penchant for the Symphonic side of the genre, then “Armada” will deeply satisfy. It is much more than a mere clone of the definitive bands of either end of the spectrum and throws enough curve-balls your way to keep you guessing and always interested. (Online May 30, 2006)