This writer has always held Keep of Kalessin in high regard ever since he interviewed their singer Thebon around the time the career defining Kolossus was released. Back then Keep of Kalessin had just reinvented themselves as a black metal band, incorporating a lot more technicality and clean production that is usually anathema for the genre. Realizing that there's more potential outside the straight and narrow path of the extreme, for this year's Reptilian Keep of Kalessin rush headlong into the melodic realm and maintain a few vestiges of their past sound for appearance's sake. At least this is the impression you get after constant barrages of pointless blastbeats that otherwise ruin the different songs' narrative arc.
The long and short of Reptilian is it's about dragons. Think of the movies Dragonslayer (a kvlt klassik, this is), Dragonheart, Beowulf, and How To Tame Your Dragon. There. Dragons, dragons, dragons. Are these guys nerds? Of course, as are all black metal warriors down the ages. But Keep of Kalessin have turned a new leaf in recent years and have evolved into a melodic beast for better or worse. The best example of this change is opener Dragon Iconography, which enjoys a short intro before sliding into machinegun tempo thrash. For an album about dragons, Keep of Kalessin eschew the Rhapsody of Fire crap--though a small degree of cinematic bombast does course through the album--in favor of grit and aggression. Not to mention soaring choruses. Try The Awakening and the lone 'sell out' track The Dragontower where the band forsake all that they once believed for an honest to goodness romp in heavy metal territory. Thebon is a terrible vocalist though. He should stick to growls.
Rather short at just eight songs, what the album lacks in running time it more than compensates for when it comes to musicianship. Guitar wunderkind Obsidian Claw has the unique distinction of being in a league of his own when it comes to pure shred majesty. Hear him at his best on the album's faster songs like Judgement, leaving The Mortal Flesh, and the closing farewell epic Reptilian Majesty. If Keep of Kalessin want to reach new heights in their sound, then at least they should quit black metal for good. The 'black metal' element is what ruins Reptilian, often coming off as excess baggage.
If Keep of Kalessin want to reach new heights in their sound, then at least they should quit black metal for good. The 'black metal' element is what ruins Reptilian, often coming off as excess baggage.