Norway produced no shortage of Black Metal acts in the late 1990s, although few play with the attack heard on KEEP OF KALESSIN’s first releases. The band’s sophomore effort, “Agnen: A Journey Through The Dark,” offers eight tracks that follow the discourse of a resurrected warrior under apocalyptic skies with an irreverence toward divinity.
In terms of lyrical content KEEP OF KALESSIN prove more abstract than concrete. The disc’s opening track clings to conceptual imagery in citing such ambiguous settings as “chaotic escapes” and a “distance: unrelevant.” These nondescript terms frame an interpretive landscape for listeners, and a conscious effort to avoid detail pervades through the remainder of the track. Material horrors and possessions appear cloaked with metaphysical terminology through references to “what was gained” and “what lurks behind.” Such aerial extractions appear throughout the release, although occasional references to mist, dragons, and blood-red soil add tangible subjects and color to the ancient warrior’s blank and somewhat bland lyrical canvas.
“Agnen” more than compensates for its lack of lyrical precision with thunderous blast beats and unprecedented speed from the stringed section. Those seeking proof that bassists add more than a low end blitzkrieg to a guitarist’s lead should take note of “Towards I Roam” as its bass lines span a good portion of the fret board and add a complexity to the composition seldom realized in Black Metal. The riffs on this release offer high gain and dissonance in addition to incredible speeds. KEEP OF KALESSIN compete with the fastest in the business, and “Agnen” will impress speedwhores and fans of the frozen wasteland alike. The band’s support speaks volumes for their influence on other artists and the metal scene in general.
To name “Agnen: A Journey Through The Dark” a masterpiece would demonstrate an over-eager approach to handing out praise. The tracks do little to expand boundaries and the musicians excel at nothing other than speed; however, to deny that the release brandishes a distinct and significant impact would reek of under-appreciation. KEEP OF KALESSIN produce a consistent barrage of energetic titles that stop nothing short of impressive, and although little separates each release from other selections in the Black Metal catalog everyone should boast at least one K.O.K. offering in their collection.
(Online October 1, 2007)