So far 2008 has been a been a year of sleeper hits, slow-growers, and near misses. Either they haven’t been taking their vitamins or sacrificed enough virgins on the altar of ol’ Nic but for whatever reason many of the leading extreme Metal bands just haven’t been able to match or even exceed the high standards set by their immediate predecessors. DEICIDE's latest album couldn’t hold a candle to “The Stench Of Redemption”, OPETH’s “Watershed” came off as a mere afterthought when compared to “Ghost Reveries”, and NACHTMYSTIUM’s “Assassins -Black Meddle Part I” simply couldn’t top the brilliance of “Instinct: Decay”. Granted, the abovementioned albums are all enjoyable in their own right and they’re not to be considered crap in any way, but none of them hit me with the same ferocity as their predecessors. Sadly KEEP OF KALESSIN is set to continue this slightly worrying trend with their latest long-player by the name of “Kolossus”, albeit to a lesser degree.
Now, with an album called “Kolossus” it is not unreasonable to expect something, well, colossal from these Norwegian overlords. Much like IMMORTAL they have are one of the few Black Metal bands that can lay claim to having improved their sound with each successive album. They have also been able to write fully formed riffs that are at once heavy, classy, and catchy as well as having war-obsessed lyrics that are a welcome break from all the “hail Satan” drivel that lesser bands shit out in copious amounts. With “Kolossus”, though, their blackened mojo seems to be waning because there’s nothing on here that that they haven’t done better on the brilliant “Armada”. During my more cynical moments I’d say that these songs come off as B-sides from the “Armada” sessions, B-sides that have been tweaked and fine-tuned just enough to stand on their own. Luckily this feeling dissipates when it becomes clear that most of these new tracks just take a wee bit longer to unfold. Musically this album feels like the natural continuation of the sound they captured on their previous album (the riffs are just as punchy, the choruses still act as enraged battle cries, and the drumming is still jaw-dropping in its intensity and speed), but as a whole “Kolossus” lacks one key ingredient: power. OK, let me put it this way – it has power, but not enough of it and where the previous album managed to create and sustain a heightened sense of power/conviction this one only does so in somewhat erratic spurts. This might have something to do with the song lengths (many of which surpass the 7 minute mark) – the band starts off with teeth bared and swords held aloft but after 5 minutes or so of sonic savagery their energies just sort of peter out, with the riffs in particular not doing enough to see the songs through to the bloody end. Thus many riffs become stale after a while, with the strong sense of repetition not invoking power but rather lethargy. I guess the band just couldn’t find a ways to successfully resolve and/or conclude their songs, and as such many of these songs start off better than they finish. Not the worse offense in the book but considering this band’s undeniable musical chops it must be held against them. But enough bitching about the bad, let’s turn our attention to the good...
Speaking of ‘good’, there’s plenty of that on “Kolossus”: they chunky intro riffs that soon dive into a victorious gallop of “A New Empire’s Birth” (the epic chorus here also slays!), the hypnotic double-bass driven main riff of “The Rising Sign”, and the strangely uplifting “fun” vibe of “Warmonger”, a track with riffs lifted wholesale off the “Armada” album. Throughout there is a smart balance maintained between the serene (read: foreboding) and the relentless, but more often than not I find myself enjoying the faster sections on here a lot more since the shock-and-awe guitar/drum assault of this band is still clearly their strongest asset. The band pretty much recorded this album live in their own studio, giving the songs a very commendable spontaneous and ‘warm’ vibe that suits the music perfectly, so kudos to them for that!
Actually when I think about it the only thing holding back this album is the unnecessarily long duration of some of the tracks and the aforementioned sense of repetition that it brings with it. Apart from this little hiccup this album is yet another strong KOK effort that will surely not lose them any fans. Epic Black Metal with a healthy focus on the almighty riff is still the name of the game here! Bottom line: not as instantly devastating as “Armada” but during its best moments “Kolossus” is at the very least of an equal standard.
(Online July 6, 2008)