Tabu Records
Release Date: April 3, 2006

User Review
0/10 (0 votes)

Norway’s Keep of Kalessin has for a long time been a significant factor in the Black Metal underground, but so far failed in taking –- or has not wanted to take -– that final step up among the elite in the genre. The band was founded in 1994 and released their debut Trough Times of War in 1997, before the critically acclaimed Agnen – A Journey Through The Dark in 1999. After a split-up in the year 2000, guitarist/keyboardist and band founder Obsidian C. brought in fresh blood in Frost (Satyricon, for whom Obsidian C. has taken on session guitar duties) and Attila (Mayhem, Aborym) to record the EP Reclaim. Original drummer Vyl was brought back in, together with bassist Wizziac and singer Thebon, which finally resulted in the band’s new full-length effort Armada. The band has shown potential all the way, and finally this potential is being released to the fullest. Armada is a thrilling display of insanely fast, frighteningly precise, true Black Metal. Obsidian C. lays down riffs that are among the fastest ever heard in the genre, and Vyl shows that he easily can compete with the genre’s top drummers in terms of speed, aggressiveness, and precision.

After a short intro, “Crown of the Kings” opens the ball, and both the pace and standard are set immediately. The mix of blast beats and speedy, melodic riffing will grab you, and Obsidian C. has managed to come up with some rather fresh-sounding melodies. “The Black Uncharted” is next, and although this too is on the quicker side, the fast parts are contrasted with traditional, atmospheric, mid-tempo riffing to create variation. The music, although brutal, never will tire you when listening.

The word “speedy” gets a new definition when the main riff in “Vengeance” kicks in, though. Obsidian C reinvents tremolo picking via a frightening single-string line with Vyl and Wizziac laying down a phenomenal groove underneath. The rest of the track lacks the immediate catchiness of its two predecessors, but after a few spins, it too grows onto you and stands forth as one of the album’s strongest. “Many Are We,” on the other hand, gets to you immediately, and alongside “Into the Fire,” to which a video has been made, these are the most accessible songs on the album. “Accessible” does not have to equal low-quality, though, and both songs are of the highest standard.

“Winged Watcher” and the instrumental “Deluge” are the only tracks that can be labelled “not so good” on the entire album. “The Wealth of Darkness” is another powerful Black Metal speedster, with a very majestic clean vocal chorus, while the title track, which closes the album, does so in an excellent manner. It sums up the album musically -– drawing themes and structures from several songs to make the album feel as one unit –- and its epic structure is very suitable for a closing track.

In short, this is a fantastic effort, and unquestionably the Black Metal album of the decade (so far, at least). Everyone should own this album.


  • Torgeir P. Krokfjord

    Torgeir was a reviewer here at Metal Express Radio. After hearing Malmsteen's "Vengeance" on a guitar mag CD at the age of 12 or 13, he began doing hopeless interpretations of Yngwie licks and it just took off from there. After shorter stints at other zines he was snatched to Metal Express Radio in 2003. Alongside Yngwie, Savatage, WASP, Symphony X, Blind Guardian, Emperor, Arch Enemy, In Flames, Opeth, Motörhead, Manowar, and Queensrÿche are a quick list of musical faves. Torgeir is also guitarist in the Heavy/Prog/Thrash outfit Sarpedon.

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