Back in the heyday of Norwegian Black metal in the 90’s, bands such as Keep of Kalessin were a kvlt classic on many standards. With only two albums, they soon became a force to reckon with only to see the demise of their potential career from a split up. Only a few years later would guitarist and main songwriter Obsidian Claw, reform the band with black metal legend Attila Csihar (vocalist on Mayhem’s De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas
). With yet another promising line-up and effort of making a new EP - Keep of Kalessin would soon disappoint their fans by breaking up again within the same year. Only two years later would Obsidian Claw re-create the band with a line-up featuring a new vocalist and bassist, as well as the original drummer from their Through Times Of War
– Agnen: A Journey Through The Dark
era. In 2006, skepticism and optimism filled the air - the following was unexpected. We find Armada
as a full blown metal masterpiece within the blackened death metal realm, rather than pure black metal.
Many would love to accuse Keep of Kalessin of “selling out” on this release, by taking a turn for money and pulling off a stunt just like their fellow countrymen Dimmu Borgir. Even if they now have a cleaner production tone, there still is a distinctive difference between Keep of Kalessin and Dimmu Borgir’s route of becoming commercial black metal. Keep of Kalessin maintained their black metal roots, only to add death metal and thrash metal influences in their music. Dimmu Borgir on the other hand decided to completely abandon their roots all together.
But what makes Armada
good? To start with, we see strong vicious vocal performances from their new vocalist, Thebon. There is also Obsidian Claw branching out on many styles for tasteful melodies by incorporating thrash, and death metal riffs that complimented with his signature black metal riffs. He also displays a wider use of technical, yet melodic solos, as well as Spanish-esque acoustic sections that adds an eerie atmosphere. The drums are also a significant highlight within the album by maintaining technical rhythmic sections throughout the entire album, only to see the bass guitar drowned with the rhythm of the relentless onslaught of blast beats.
may be considered Keep of Kalessin’s commercial breakthrough album, but it doesn’t evade the fact the album can come off as the same song being played over and over again with different variations that “shake things up a bit”. The album is enjoyable, but there are too many falters that doesn’t help distinguish one song from another. But there’s one positive insight with Armada
– and that is the influence that will expand their signature brand of blackened-death metal for future releases to come.