Written by: Loveloth
Iceland – the land of ice and fire. It's every geologist's dream land, due to it being packed with countless natural peculiarities. But this is far from the only thing that piques my interest when it comes to this fascinating country. Iceland is rough, very rough in fact, so people adapted via usage of geothermal and hydroelectric energy, fishing, or aluminium smelting--but everything changed in 2007 when the Great Recession struck. People were desperate. Some fled to Norway in hope of finding a better life, but those who stayed endured. Now, you may be saying to yourself: "Oh mighty Loveloth, what does this have to do with anything?" but fear not, this unnecessarily long intro is getting to the point, so hear me out. Because Iceland is so isolated, there is a sense of community, so people partake in sports, media, or create music insert the sound of a point being gotten. And Iceland always had a superb music scene, but something sinister evolved during the pinnacle of said recession--black metal. All these things I mentioned fuel this scene with volcanic might. Bands like Svartidauði, Misþyrming, Sinmara, and Wormlust are just some of the brilliant bands you can come across but this year, we got another. Kaleikr.
Formed from the ashes of Draugsól, Kaleikr burst from the icy depths with Heart Of Lead, a debut I've been excited for since I heard "The Descent" last year. Rooted in dissonance and good ole' atmosphere, the duo grabs and drags you through Heart Of Lead's many murky corridors, and I, for one, greatly enjoyed this violent and claustrophobic voyage.
This vague, semi-descriptive sentence is nothing new in the world of wordsmithery so let me elaborate. Kaleikr play a blend of progressive black, progressive death, and a dash of post-metal for good measure, and it becomes apparent pretty quickly with the slow, unraveling arrival of "Beheld At Sunrise." The violas and piano are a nice touch but it takes a bit too much to get going but as soon as you hear Maximilian Klimko's earthy growls and Kjartan Harðarson's blastbeats, the true journey starts. The duo possesses immense synergy, synergy most bands strive for and most songs here prove this. Angular, melodic, ethereal or start/stop, Klimko's riffs and general guitar work is impressive. However, even more impressive is the fact he takes care of vocals, bass, and the arrangements. This may seem like he is the star of this record but Harðarson's clever, rich and overall superb drumming demonstrates that both of them are absolutely crucial. Each of the songs presented are vast, dynamic and engaging and the record's unusually clean production tries emphasizing this. Tries because the record tends to sound flat when things really start going haywire. Those moments of pure insanity are always welcomed but I love when Kaleikr throw surprises at you like that Enslaved-like guitar section in "Of Unbearable Longing" or the nasty opening riff and viola-infused ending section in "Internal Contradiction." That ending section in particular is hauntingly beautiful and transitions perfectly in "Neurodelirium" which is one of my favourite tracks from Heart Of Lead.
With all these positives I listed, it seems Heart Of Lead is really good. It is, but there are flaws. Apart from the production, some tracks simply overstay their welcome, the title track and intro of "Beheld At Sunrise" being the biggest culprits, but there is a few more instances of meandering.
However, the good greatly overpowers the bad and what we're left is a very good debut from a band that is poised for success. I would greatly appreciate if Kaleikr doesn't share the same fate as Draugsól because the potential for a monumental record is here and ready to be expanded upon. The individual performances, lyrics, songwriting (aside the aforementioned), it all comes together and we ended up with one of the best debuts of 2019. I am sure this won't change when we reach the year-end mayhem so definitely give this record a listen, preferably more than one because there are many details you'll miss on the first listen.
There is just one thing I want to say: "Thank you, Iceland."
Kaleikr's Heart of Lead was released Feb. 2019 from Debemur Morti Productions