Review Summary: A one-trick pony that occasionally rises above to deliver something unexpected.
I’m honestly torn between thinking that Keep Of Kalessin have hit the nail on the head or completely missed each time there is a track change in Reptilian
, the Norwegians’ latest offering. I mean, the things which are done right here are absolutely phenomenal, yet the blemishes are profound and almost irrevocably bad. The vocals cross the line between great and awkward numerous times, with the screams being competent enough to slip by while the clean vocals wallow in pretentiousness and mediocrity. It’s not that their music is wildly out-of-focus or pulling in influences which don’t belong there; it’s just that the album seems to fall asleep at the wheel, so to speak. Their melding of symphonic black metal and death metal gets an infusion of melody which is both refreshing but also precariously used as a crutch to keep things from falling into a bland, lifeless shell of an album. Going from a course which is straight as an arrow to veering wildly out of control, Reptilian
tests the patience of the listener to wade through the mud to discover the gems therein, which aren’t necessarily prevalent but are always sizable.
The riffs are the backbone of the album, and are solid enough to really keep things interesting yet noticeably heavy and fast-moving. It’s not until the likes of “Dark As Moonless Night” when things take a turn towards deliberate atmospherics that are immensely satisfying but also vital to the album’s replay value. However, to get there the album moves through a near constant shift between filler and enjoyable material, with recycled atmospheres and similar riffing wiping clean any originality which rears its head. The chorus to “The Dragontower” sounds almost like it’s influenced by power metal, something which is later confirmed when a wailing guitar solo works its way in, and the doom touches to “Dark As Moonless Night” are well-executed and particularly memorable. It’s a shame, though, that Keep Of Kalessin tosses variety aside when they overuse the balls-to-the-wall approach of tracks like “Judgment” and “Dragon Iconography”, songs consisting of overbearing walls of noise which have some sense of cohesion but repeat themselves too much to prove interesting. The tendency for the drumming to be going flat-out for almost the entire album is something which doesn’t really help the quality of the songwriting. The multitude of furious double-bass kicks and countless fills pummel the listener nearly constantly, rarely ever slowing down to show another side to the playing style of not only the drums, but the rest of the band as well.
The fourteen minute closer “Reptilian Majesty” is a perfect summation of the album as a whole; it represents each little detail of Reptilian
in one song. The blistering pace gives way to atmospheric synths which transcend to a melodic bridge before wrapping it up with another fast-paced and undeniably heavy verse that fades into dissonant keyboards. That’s really it, though, that is what Reptilian
is made up of; a one-trick pony that occasionally rises above to deliver something unexpected and fresh. It’s this tendency of the album to almost transform into something worthwhile before sliding back into mediocrity that makes Reptilian
difficult to recommend as a complete package. Sure, there are several songs which are definitely worth a listen, but to say that the entire album is up to the same level is a something that doesn’t prove entirely true.