Kaleikr - Heart of Lead
Debemur Morti Productions
Progressive Death/Black Metal
7 songs (47:57)
Release year: 2019
Official Bandcamp, Debemur Morti Productions
Reviewed by Goat
Surprise of the month

An Icelandic duo with experience in several other small bands, Kaleikr have made an intriguing debut album. Rooted in black metal, Heart of Lead yearns for other realms and so incorporates everything from atmospheric prog musings to cello flourishes in search of profundity. And, largely, does so very well, although there are hints that any follow-up will be even better once songwriting stumbles are ironed out. As good as moments here can be there's not always the sense that songs deserve their average six to seven minute length and they don't always use the time as well as they could. Still, the likes of Of Unbearable Longing are packed with riffs and plenty of changes to keep ears attentive; the fact that both frontman and guitarist (and bassist) Maximilian Klimko and drummer Kjartan Harðarson are excellent, skilled musicians more than helps. The former has a keen ear for a good, gloom-drenched guitar riff and a raspy growl reminiscent of the late lamented She Said Destroy, and the latter pulls off the sort of thoughtful yet not unviolent battery needed to drive extreme metal.

Opener Beheld At Sunrise is one of the few tracks that really pulls off the build to epic blasting formula well, yet the peak of the following The Descent is just as good, that cello working overtime. Of Unbearable Longing turns a little chuggier initially, thereafter switching towards modern Enslaved territory with melodic riffing; really, Kaleikr are a little too jagged and technical to truly be black metal, yet their atmospheric proclivities more than push them away from the death metal realm. The blasting heaviness of Internal Contradiction is beyond death metal, but then a jazzy drum beatdown brings you back to earth, some dissonant Deathspell Omega-isms on the guitar launching you again into the atmosphere. It's both a puzzle and a relief to be confronted with a band like this, that is both genuinely original and also indebted to others!

And, it must be said, something of a worry to not love it immediately and wholeheartedly, which may just be your correspondent's experience and cynicism at play, as there's little actually wrong with Heart of Lead. Neurodelirium is one of the album's best pieces, dense and technical and constantly shifting, propelling you onwards whether in blasting blackened mode or a more expansive prog flowering, vaguely reminiscent of mid-period Opeth but nowhere near close enough to call a clone. The variety present is interesting, the bass-led meandering that opens the title track very different to surrounding pieces, even before the breathy vocals turn it towards gothic territory. And album closer Eternal Stalemate and a Never-Ending Sunset has touches of melodic doom to its grandiose musings, again perhaps a little too drawn-out at nearly eight minutes' length but a good closer and a compelling way to leave things. Hurry that second album up, guys.

Killing Songs :
Beheld At Sunrise, Neurodelirium
Goat quoted 75 / 100
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