Keep Of Kalessin
Through Times Of War
Agnen: A Journey Through the Dark
Mercenary Music / World War III
Keep Of Kalessin’s Through Times of War… is an utterly unremarkable piece of work that is way too wide-eyed and earnest in the appreciation and inspiration they obviously draw from early Mayhem and Immortal. Cold and frigid as an icy tomb, most of the material on this record is an uncompromising gust of frosty wind and hate, with little concession to the niceties of art and expression. On one level, that warlike discipline should be respected. On another level, I’ve been hearing the same shit for years and it=EDs time to move on. There are two excellent moments on Through Times of War… that almost salvage it for me, though. “Skygger Av Sorg” begins with a swirling intro that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Cure record, and then explodes into a wall-of-sound riff with some great drum fills and gruff vocals howling off in the distance, and an ace middle section full of atmospheric keyboards, jagged high guitars and soft foreboding whispers, followed by a fucking nice coda that has some sweet Brian Eno and Jesus & Mary Chain influences. I think. The other standout is the epic “Nectarous Red,” an excellent battle lament, that sees Keep Of Kalessin reign in their bloodlust and instead brood and invoke demons over deceptively simple chord progressions. This song does an excellent job of evoking the fear and menace that is central to their whole aesthetic. There’s a cracker of a bonus track too, full of devil screams and caustic throat damage, which caused plenty of jaw droppage at the Moyer estate. Why the fuck wasn’t this on the album proper?
The weaknesses of Through Times of War… make its successor, Agnen, stand out in even starker contrast. The intensity level is upped to an exponential degree, like an unrelenting avalanche of black ice, obliterating anything and anyone in its path. It’s a thrilling creative progression. “Dragonlord” is a juggernaut of pounding drum and bass blasts with duo vocals and a more thrash-centric guitar sound. It’s the aural equivalent of the Palantir, mysterious and opaque. “As Mist Lay Silent Beneath” bursts out into an epic Viking War March halfway through, with echoes of “Leper Messiah” and a less silly Manowar, “I Deny” succeeds purely by virtue of its unfettered hostility and violence, kinda like a more listenable Marduk. Nice throat torture vocals too. Ditto for “Pain Humanised” — there’s the blitzkrieg yes, but there’s also an atonal, experimental No Wave / free jazz feel that crops up here and there — and those rumbling rhythms, totally FOR REAL. “Orb Of Man” is a blistering burst of black metal, with a surreal sea shanty chant that briefly surfaces and then disappears beneath the waves. “Dryland” continues the sea theme with an intro of stormy waves pounding against craggy walls, and is actually two disparate songs, crudely stitched together with corrosive guitar feedback, both sections brimming with violent noise. “Towards I Roam” plays host to some amazing fluid basslines, that for a second there call to mind the Ox, John Entwhistle, a very strange juxtaposition against the torrent of guitars and drums. But it works so well. Now that’s good art. Closer “Agnen” is the avant-garde, thrash-until-death closer that one would expect from such a forward-thinking album, layering white noise upon white noise while still actually keeping the essence of a song. There are some incredible sushi-throated screams as well as a long (half the song) Sonic Youth-y gone to hell coda where two chords are just played over and over again with screams and percussion for maximum Mephistophelian mantra. It’s so draining and incredible. The album fades out on a single sine wave of feedback. Whew. Fuck yes.
Mercenary Music / World War III: http://www.ww3music.com