Review Summary: Reptilian is a solid symphonic black/death metal album, but more importantly, it shows that Keep of Kalessin have got potential for big things in the future as long as they keep perfecting their formula
, in 2006, Keep of Kalessin steadily started to move away from their pure black metal roots, adding more death metal-y parts and melodic guitar lines to their sound. This trend was further accentuated on their 2008 album Kolossus
, where they didn't even sound like a black metal band anymore - the album was more like a one of a kind crossbreed between death and black metal, with even a hint of melodeath thrown in for good measure. Reptilian
solidifies that the style exhibited on Kolossus
is indeed the direction the band are moving in the long run. Being a good collection of symphonic black metal songs mixed with death metal and featuring a supplementary dose of melody, Reptilian
is a solid addition to the band’s discography.
, the band have made two strong steps forward compared to Kolossus
. They've definitely improved the overall package, bringing us a much more cohesive and refined package this time around, as Reptilian
is a solid listen in one sitting while Kolossus
dragged and was bogged down by its somewhat monotonous atmosphere and riffing. Keep of Kalessin have also kicked up the melodies this time around, which sound a lot fuller and thought-out. There are plenty of great harmonizations and enjoyable guitar leads to be found here. There is one problem Reptilian
faces though - it can’t make up its mind whether it wants to be a standard symphonic black/death metal album, or a somewhat experimental extreme metal album. While I did say the album is solid when listened to in one piece, and I wasn’t lying, you get the sense the band didn't quite know what they were opting for with the final product. Out of the eight songs presented here, four of them sound experimental (to some extent) while the other four sound like the band were playing it a little safe. And while there isn’t any conspicuous filler here, the listener is left with a feeling that Reptilian
could’ve been much more, as it’s the more experimental songs that really do the trick here.
"Dragon Iconography" opens up the album well, and while it isn’t anything extraordinary, it’s a strong song with a memorable main riff and added strings. It is followed by "The Awakening" – first of the somewhat experimental songs – which exhibits the band's rather successful attempts to craft a memorable, but also versatile long song. Other highlights (read: experimental songs) include the 14-minute powerhouse "Reptilian Majesty", which is in fact a very strong attempt by the band to craft a timeless epic, and "The Dragontower", which is a fun, folkish song with a good amount of cheese and a catchy chorus. The latter was also the band’s pick for Norway’s Melodi Grand Prix contest - a competition where Norway's Eurovision entry is selected - where Keep of Kalessin achieved a respectable third place. Nothing, nothing can rival one concrete track on this album though, and that is "Dark As Moonless Night".
What makes that cut so great, is how Keep of Kalessin finally manage to create a dark, ecumenical atmosphere that encases the rest of the song into its firm grip – something that was missing on Kolossus
and is also lacking on Reptilian
if we additionally count out "Reptilian Majesty" too. To add to that, the lead guitar churns out some fabulous melodies over the thick, doom-tempoed wall-of-sound backing. The culmination of the song comes in its ascending chorus though, which demonstrates the guitars, vocals and the atmosphere in perfect harmony.
In the end, Reptilian
comes off as somewhat of a mixed album. While it is definitely a solid record through and through, it does feature some outstanding cuts that are heads and shoulders above the rest, namely "Dark As Moonless Night" and "Reptilian Majesty". This only proves that the band definitely have what it takes to create a true masterpiece. Now all they have to do is fully utilize their potential. Nevertheless, Reptilian
is still a solid symphonic black/death metal album, and well-worth listening to, even if it has its small drawbacks.