With the departure of long-time vocalist and fan favourite Thebon in 2013 as well as the inevitable backlash from the trve kvlt brigade after flirtations with that most Satanic of institutions Eurovision; the future was not looking bright for Keep of Kalessin. The gap was widening since previous album Reptilian in 2010 and many thought the band had blown it, a depressing development after their successful rebirth in 2003. However, founding member Obsidian Claw refused to admit defeat and after assuming vocal duties has released sixth full-length Epistemology (both Indie Recordings) along with seasoned veterans Vyl and Wizziac along for the ride. It’s a decision that looks set to pay off for the trio, for they have recorded one absolute belter of an album.
For those who would rather cut off their own nuts then listen to another turgid Darkthrone rip-off with an artificially engineered ‘raw’ production job or who refuse to accept that only one-man losers who have never got past copy-and-paste Burzum worship have a monopoly on black metal, Keep of Kalessin are the band for you. Firmly rooted in the melodic side of the genre, although crucially leaving the dual-lead guitars to the Dissection fan boys, the band knows how to pen relatively straightforward compositions that deftly merge brutality and bombast. In short, they are the band that Dimmu Borgir should have become after Death Cult Armageddon (Nuclear Blast). Factor in a high quality, widescreen production job that makes the bass-drum sound like a jack hammer and gives the wailing leads a truly grandiose feel, and you have all the ingredients for a stone-cold classic.
With pretty much all tracks, from the soaring clean vocals and brutal guitar lines of nine-minute opener ‘The Spiritual Relief’ to the choppy melo-death workout of the closing title, following the same expertly written path of pomp and bludgeon, Epistemology may appall traditionalists but will delight those who like to look to the stars as well as into the pits of hell. Thanks for sticking around, guys.