A new column to highlight your path through the flooded underground of heavy.
Words by Ryan McCarthy:
Too often, I see people complain that “X sounds just like Y” (I’m looking at you, UADA haters). It’s a complaint I just can’t wrap my head around. You’re mad that a band sounds like another band that you enjoy? That sounds like a good thing to me, and to many other normal people with normal opinions. Thus, the general format of this column will be an album review of a recent release, and then a review of another album that I think is similar but has been slept on or simply hasn’t gotten the hype that I feel it deserves. Of course, I may not follow that exact formula every time because only cops care about rules. Also, I am in love with black metal. Thanks for reading.
KALEIKR - Heart of Lead
Let me start by making my bias known: I believe that, at the moment, Iceland has the best black metal scene in the world. Any release from this relatively small collective of hyperactive musicians immediately piques my interest, and to date none have disappointed. To say Heart of Lead is no exception would be an understatement.
The debut album from Reykjavik duo KALEIKR is an exploration in emotive riffing and engaging composition. I mean that exploration comment almost literally.
Heart of Lead feels like a journey into swirling mists and vaguely defined landscapes. There are no throwaway riffs and nothing feels like filler. The disparate influences manage to feel intentionally utilized and, somehow, complementary. The leads are perfectly suited to the melodies they are meant to accentuate. There are even some moments when the bass takes center stage. KALEIKR showcase a level of musicianship that I feel is too often lacking in black metal projects.
Although I’ve mentioned black metal twice now, it would be unfair to pigeonhole Heart of Lead as only drawing influence from one specific sub-genre. There are psychedelic elements, and a death metal influence especially noticeable in the drumming and vocals, which would sound just as fitting on an OPETH record. In seven songs, KALEIKR manages to create an album that is at once progressive and traditional, melodic and discordant, emotive and abstract. The more progressive sections of this album feel necessary rather than just pointless noodling in 13/8 to pad the runtime. In fact, if I zone out enough, I can nearly hear similarities with BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME. But when KALEIKR get to blasting, there’s absolutely no mistaking that this project is fundamentally and essentially Scandinavian.
Typically, music which can be described as “psychedelic” is far outside of my wheelhouse, but this album makes me feel right at home. KALEIKR’s Heart of Lead is intricate enough that I’m excited to revisit it again and again in the coming years and impressive enough that five months into 2019 I’m declaring it an absolute definite addition to my year end list.
Favorite Tracks: The Descent, Neurodelirium
SXUPERION - Cosmic Void
I was actually having trouble thinking of anything with a similar enough sound to KALEIKR’s album to warrant a comparison, but when I decided to listen to SXUPERION’s Cosmic Void on a whim, I realized I’d found what I needed.
The third full length from California’s SXUPERION, Cosmic Void, showcases memorable, melodic leads and distinctly death metal vocals. The drums complement the riffing exceptionally well, and the band isn’t afraid to slow things down for heavier passages. These chugging sections serve to break up the straightforward aggression of the tremolo riffs and blast beats that this album features in droves. The shortest song on Cosmic Void clocks in at just over five minutes, evidence of SXUPERION’s ability to tackle longer, more involved compositions.
Cosmic Void highlights the unit’s readiness to use repetition as a weapon in their arsenal, focusing more on mood than technicality to craft the oppressive atmosphere that they wish to convey. There’s a latent undercurrent of anger looming beneath the five tracks on this album. All things considered, Cosmic Void is certainly a much more aggressive listening experience than Heart of Lead.
Favorite Tracks: Ardent Hymns Accumulating, Irreligious Cosmic Void
Differences aside, Cosmic Void and Heart of Lead have a very similar “feeling” to me, and both KALEIKR and SXUPERION impress me in their ability to blend multiple styles to great effect. Listening through these lengthy tracks left me feeling as though I’d undertaken an arduous journey. If Heart of Lead is an excursion through fog-drenched landscapes, then Cosmic Void is a plummet through cloud-covered skies.
As always, thank you for supporting good music and the great people behind it all.