Review Summary: Despite re-using a lot of the same elements Armada had, Kolossus manages to leave its own impression and at the very least is a sign of progress.
This is a really good album, but it suffers from the same thing as Emperor's Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk
- namely, it's a revisitation of an album the band in question had already made, albeit in a slightly more refined and mature presentation. Emperor's Anthems
was very much In the Nightside Eclipse v2.0
, and in the same way, this one is very much Armada v2.0
. Some of the songs even use the same lines or structures (cf. "Warmonger" vs "Many Are We")
But to be honest, I somewhat expected this. Armada
was an excellent release, and it's quite common for this to happen once a band releases a breakthrough album. And that's not to say it's a bad album, at all; in fact, it's pretty remarkable. Anthems
actually benefited from this approach; it was different enough from Nightside
to avoid being equated to it by too many people. But Kolossus
is VERY similar to Armada
. Even so, it does have its moments, and the best of these are when it veers from replicating Armada
- one particular example is the mixture of rough, finger-sliding Gorgoroth-esque riffing in "The Rising Sign" with a spacey synth interlude very reminiscent of Arcturus' Sideshow Symphonies
or La Masquerade Infernale
. If that last statement didn't already make it obvious enough, this album also displays much more of a progressive influence than Armada
, which did have them, but only on occasion.
Moving away from that for a moment, the instrumention on Kolossus
is a definite step up from that on Armada
, which itself had nearly flawless instrumentation already. The bass is surprisingly audible for a black metal release, which is an *extremely* welcome change, to me at least. It even comes close to being the centerpiece in a few song sections. Also nice: the drums. Right up front and center. Right from the first moments of the album's first "real" song, a message is made very clearly that the drumming on this is going to be both very prominent and very enjoyable. And that message is not in the least bit inaccurate - the double bass on this could be used to resuscitate heart attack victims.
Also made very clear from the album's start, is that the Iberian guitar flourishes which Keep of Kalessin began toying with in the Reclaim
EP, and which they used as a primary flavoring for Armada
, have now become a full-blown main ingredient. Aside from this, the guitars are essentially the same as before, but there are quite a few more solos, and the speed heard on songs like "Vengeance Rising" and "Into the Fire" is present on just about every song on the album.
I'm not going to say one song is better than all the rest. But, perhaps the best example of what the album as a whole is like, would be the song "Escape the Union." It starts off with the Castilian guitar sounds, quickly degenerates into a very traditional TNBM guitar line, sweeps back up into majesty and melody, with drums slamming their way through the wall of noise as the bass continually builds it back up. The melodic lines are catchy without being goofy or too positive(in fact, they almost sound mournful), the prog structures become more and more evident as the song nears its end, and, incidentally, it has a kickass guitar solo.
However, all the songs are good to some degree; the title track is ridiculously epic and majestic. It is the music that would be playing as an entire planet crumbled to dust. If "Against the Gods" doesn't make you want to beat rhinos senseless with your bare knuckles, nothing will. "Ascendant" may be the single most-appropriately-titled song on the album; it actually is uplifting and empowering. It is absolutely anthemic. Without being gay. I promise.
Oddly enough, this album has what might be Kalessin's first real ballad. I won't say anything more about that. Not because it's awful, it's perfectly decent. Probably one of the best on the album, in fact. It just came as a surprise to me and I think it should be that way for anyone who hears it. And for those who are already sneering - it doesn't stay very ballad-like for long. Again, Sideshow Symphonies
comes to mind for this one. Emperor too. Even Strapping Young Lad, albeit to a much lesser degree.
In short, it's a great album. It does lack the sense of being something brand new and unprecedented. But, all the elements that were heard before on Armada
have been expanded upon - not left to stagnate until they could be rehashed for a new album. The band has used the same elements, but their implentation is vastly improved. There were several moments on Armada
where the transitions between two very good, but very different, song sections felt a little jarring(the solo in "Winged Watcher" being one example). Here, everything flows naturally. As for the rest - the melodic hooks are catchier but less predictable, the Spanish guitar-playing is more emphasized, there's a very heavy progressive influence, and it's obvious these guys have *all* been practicing. It is unfortunate that it's so reminiscent of Armada
, but in another sense that too may be a boon instead of a bane. Armada
can be seen as two sides of the same coin; Armada
is the soundtrack to a footsoldier's chaotic and bloody war, while Kolossus
describes the majesty and destruction of naval bombardments.
Which one the listener prefers is nothing more than a matter of taste. Armada
may be more innovative and unique, but Kolossus
, although revisiting the same ideas, does so with much more gusto and makes no apologies for it. Nor should it. It's a worthy listen, and if you enjoy music which causes your mind to wander towards visions of an apocalyptic far future where there is as much blood and violence as there is grandeur and beauty, then it is also a very worthy buy.