Iceland is home to a number of remarkably good bands, and here’s another in Kaleikr. Formed in 2016, this debut album is labelled as “black metal for fans of Opeth and Enslaved”.
It’s evident from the beginning that “Heart of Lead” is something substantial. Black metal is there at the core but it’s controlled and allows a myriad of atmospheres and impressions to develop. Dark symphony and melancholy characterise the start of the opening piece “Beheld at Sunrise”. The drums beat purposefully. Growls and distant cries come in from the cold. As the track swelled in intensity, I detected a Viking epicness, which is where the Enslaved analogy would come in, but the skill is that nothing is allowed to get in the way of the gargantuan atmosphere that builds up. “The Descent” is harsher and sprays colour in all directions, but made all the more enticing by a dangling guitar line. The threads are pulled together and woven into a ball of ferocious power and controlled intensity.
This isn’t an album that stands still. “Of Unbearable Longing” enters darker territory yet, crashing thunderously yet engagingly through walls. This reminded me of early Omnium Gatherum. There’s a bloody-mindedness about it. The blackest clouds are now forming, but Kaleikr throw us off course with a more reflective but no less menacing passage in “Internal Contradiction”. We’re now in difficult, murky territory. “Internal Contradiction” left me behind as a concept but each passage is intriguing and makes a statement. By “Neurodelirium” we’re into atmospheric progressive death metal territory. Where “Internal Contradiction” is musically obscure, “Neurodelirium” drives forward at a pace and has an exciting edge. The title track reflects the two sides of this album: the progressive sophistication and the harshness. We started with the sunrise so logically we end with “Eternal Statement and a Never Ending Sunset”. There’s a strong reminder of Enslaved once again. That dangling guitar line hangs over the epic soundscape.
“Heart of Lead” comprises seven big slabs, presented at such a rate of intensity that it’s not wise to fall off for fear of injury. This album reflects, we are told, the “absurdity of human experience” and in the end “total mental collapse”. There’s no doubt that as the album progresses, the music becomes darker and more disorderly in a deliberate way. I found that the structures were impressive even if I didn’t know where I was being led in this album of mixed moods.
(8/10 Andrew Doherty)