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Album Review

In many different types of music, one can find the stubborn traditionalists who preach to the choir as well as the crossover artists who have a better chance of reaching the unconverted. Black metal is no different. In black metal, there are the staunch traditionalists who proudly declare their allegiance to "true Norwegian black metal" (the ferocious Gorgoroth, for example) as well as the bands that have a lot more commercial appeal (such as Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir). And trying to sell a black metal hardliner on the merits of symphonic black metal is a lot like trying to convince a jazz purist that the late Grover Washington, Jr. was a great saxophonist; he most certainly was, but you'll never convince a dogmatic bop snob of that. So bearing all those things in mind, Reptilian shouldn't be recommended to black metal purists; there's no way that an album with this much crossover appeal is going to attract someone who insists that a black metal band might as well be Miley "Hanna Montana" Cyrus if it doesn't stick to the vicious Gorgoroth/Marduk recipe for total skull-shredding annihilation. Keep of Kalessin, of course, aren't exactly teen pop, although they've become increasingly melody-minded along the way. While the Norwegians were relatively melodic on their 2005-2006 recording Armada, this 2010 release is full-fledged symphonic black metal. We're talking even more melody, even more polish, even more keyboards, even more intricacy, and an even more obvious appreciation of epic power metal. Melodic death metal is an influence — lead singer Torbjørn Schei, aka Thebon, offers some death metal-minded Cookie Monster growling in addition to his black metal rasp vocals — although symphonic black metal is the main ingredient of Reptilian, which is definitely among Keep of Kalessin's most consistent and accomplished efforts. Black metal purists will have nothing nice to say about this 56-minute CD, but for those who do appreciate the musicality of symphonic black metal, there's no doubt that Reptilian is excellent.


Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s

During their first incarnation, Norway's Keep of Kalessin were comprised of vocalist Ghâsh, guitarist/keyboardist Obsidian C., bassist Warach, and drummer Vyl, and released a pair of quite competent -- but also rather typical -- Scandinavian black metal albums in 1997's Through Times of War and 1999's Agnen: A Journey Through the Dark. Neither LP made much of an impact outside the extreme metal scene itself, and so the bandmembers went their separate ways, as Obsidian C. (real name Arnt Grønbech)...
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Reptilian, Keep of Kalessin
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