(Here’s Andy Synn‘s review of the new album by the Icelandic band Kaleikr, which is being released today by Debemur Morti Productions.)
If there’s one thing that sums up just how inundated with information we are, and how overwhelming that can be, these days, it’s the fact that I didn’t even know that Icelandic Black Metallers Draugsól– whose debut album, Volaða land, we were all pretty damn impressed with here at NCS – had broken up until I received the promo for Heart of Lead, the debut album from Kaleikr.
Although, perhaps “broken up” isn’t quite the right term, as not only is Kaleikr made up of two of the three members of Draugsól – namely drummer Kjartan Harðarson and guitarist/vocalist Maximilian Klimko – but there’s also some ongoing contention and debate as to whether it constitutes an entirely new band, or simply a name change for an existing entity choosing to go in a new direction.
Either way though, it’s very, very good.
Some of the early reviews for this album have referred to the band as “Icelandic Opeth”, and while that’s not necessarily an inaccurate comparison, at least in part, it definitely feels a bit reductive to me, as although there are several moments scattered across Heart of Lead – such as the cinematic riffs and imperious growls that characterise striking opener “Beheld at Sunrise”, or the roiling metallic maelstrom of “Of Unbearable Longing” – which strongly recall the work of Akerfeldt and co in their earlier days, specifically the pre-Blackwater Park era, there’s a whole lot more going on here than that.
“The Descent”, for example, takes several cues from turn-of-the-millennium Enslaved (including some suitably nifty and progressive bass work, as well as an array of eerily atmospheric lead parts), yet also manages to take these influences in a much darker, more dissonant, and more extreme direction, while there’s a few shades of latter-day Emperor/modern-day Ihsahn colouring the churning riffs and kaleidoscopic drum work of “Internal Contradiction”.
And although, if we’re being honest with one another, it’s probably true that Harðarson and Klimko have yet to fully realise their own original, authentic voice with this album, they’re both clearly budding masters of their craft, and the ways in which the intricate, often labyrinthine arrangements of songs like “Neurodelirium” (which, again, recalls a more overtly blackened and subtly discordant take on Ihsahn’s iconoclastic solo work) and “Heart of Lead” (the album’s shortest, but arguably most densely packed, number) manage to not only stimulate your senses but also remain stuck in your memory is a real testament to just how much blood, sweat, and passion has clearly gone into the composition of every track.
Closing with the majestic, multifaceted strains of “Eternal Stalemate and a Never-Ending Sunset”, which effectively encapsulates all of the influences outlined above, as well as a few more that I haven’t even got around to mentioning, into one impressively cohesive, intensely cathartic, whole, Heart of Lead is one of those albums which, despite its nascent flaws, is likely to make an extremely strong and long-lasting impression on the right sort of listener.
Not only does it feel far shorter than its 48 minute run-time – which is no bad thing, I have to stress – but it’s the sort of album that practically demands to be replayed immediately so that you can take another look, another listen, to its many different angles and aspects from a new perspective.
And that, my friends, is the sign of a very good album indeed.