Keep of Kalessin - _Kolossus_
(Tabu Records, 2008)
by: Jackie Smit (
Given that Keep of Kalessin's mainman, Arnt "Obsidian Claw", has practically forged a career out of thumbing his nose at many of black metal's stayed conventions, it really should surprise no one that _Kolossus_ has ended up sounding like it does. In fact, by the time 2006's _Armada_ rolled into town, the band had virtually stepped out of its genre-shadow entirely anyway and were lavished with praise as a result. Purists therefore should tread cautiously here.Recorded virtually live, in their own Trondheim-based studio, "A New Empire's Birth" gets us started and is a true statement of intent. With hints of traditional metal, prog and thrash sprinkled over the course of its five and a half minutes, it's a bristling piece that ensures maximum impact while keeping you guessing from start to finish. Torbjörn Schei's vocals scale a diverse plateau of throaty rasps, growls and melodic screams, but it's on the sprawling "Against the Gods" where he truly comes into his own; the track's epic nature accentuated by his almost King Diamond-like ability to mutate his voice into a host of distinct incarnations. It's here too where the band play most true to their roots, Vegar Larsen's blasting drums providing a hyperactive pulse against his bandmates' frenetic riffing.At times _Kolossus_ plays like a condensed retrospective of the band's most successfully executed ideas; "Escape the Union" and "The Rising Sign" having a distinctly _Armada_-like feel -- minus what little filler that album had. "The Rising Sun" in particular is elevated to levels of jaw-dropping genius with a soaring chorus that has festival sing-a-long etched into its every fibre. This in mind, the only song that truly sees Keep of Kalessin go out on a limb creatively is the blackened balladry of "The Mark of Power". It leaves one wondering where the band could possibly go next after such a complete and polished offering. For now however, we enjoy _Kolossus_ for what it is: one of the most potent releases of the year, and a career high for its creators.
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