In their third album, these Nordic melodic-metallers have taken the sci-fi potpourri of their previous two albums Heaven’s Gate and Journey Of Souls, and consolidated it into something much more cohesive and firm: a unified mission statement.
You can spot the theme fairly quickly: in Earthblood, the duo laments how we as a species have turned our eyes away from space travel, instead “counting the stars only we can see”. Kepler And The 100 000 Stars asserts the statistical near-certainty of alien life in the universe, and FTL is a full-bodied ode to space travel and the potential it holds for our future.
And if FTL isn’t Keldian’s absolute best song (and it might very well be), then it’s certainly the one that most comprehensively sums up both their ethos and sound: soaring melodies give way to passionate, driven vocals, the two components melding like the tachyons in a faster-than-light drive engine. (Sorry) And the secret ingredient is honest love: both music and lyrics are driven by the artists’ honest passion for the matter of space and space travel, and it bleeds through in every line.
(Find FTL in full here!)
Keldian’s style takes a lot from European power metal, that branch of metal that emphasizes sweeping, tremendous melodies over the raw riffs of American power metal bands like Tyrant and Jag Panzer, and also retains influence from the super-catchy sound of AOR, or Arena-Oriented Rock. What we’re left with is a sound that is more spacious and dare I say ‘lighter’ than most power metal fare, and with the music being given room to breathe, Keldian have crafted magnificent melodies and harmonies that continue to enthrall with their sci-fi trappings.
Eleven-minute epic The Silfen Paths succeeds at being an ethereal, fascinating journey for about half of its run-time, but much like Memento Mori, the band’s next-longest song from previous record Journey Of Souls, I feel like there’s a bit of time mismanagement going on here: certain parts seem to take a little too long to get going, or spend too long building up until the movement borders on stagnation. But if you feel the same, try listening to the song outside its native habitat on the album, and maybe you’ll have a more positive reaction: after all, The Silfen Paths is the odd one out on an album full of punchier, more compact numbers (It’s followed immediately by the short and criminally-catchy Run For Your Life), and a song with this structure wouldn’t raise a single eyebrow on a Dream Theater or Pink Floyd album.
But while some songs took longer than others to grow on me – opener Burn The Sky charges forward and is sure to grip you from the jump with its powerful hooks, while Earthblood took a couple listens to click with me – this might be Keldian’s strongest album in a trilogy of very strong albums. Every song is strong on its own, and aside from the odd pacing of The Silfen Paths, the album as a cohesive whole is masterfully paced, faster numbers contrasting the more deliberate songs like Morning Light Mountain.
(Get hooked on Burn The Sky here!)
If I have a quibble, anything at all, it’s with my own expectations for the long-awaited physical CD release of Outbound, wherein the band hyped up ‘all-new liner notes’, only for us to receive a single page in the booklet of quick notes on regaining the inspiration to record the album and the fact that it was crowdfunded. Which, don’t get me wrong, I’m not bashing the band for this – I own the album twice via digital copy and CD – but when I see ‘liner notes’, a certain image tends to pop into my mind. I’m not asking them to give me essays, but I would have loved to see their inspirations for each song typed out in their own words. But that’s more a question of my inflated expectations rather than some fault on the band’s part.
Keldian kind of exist in a bubble of their own: getting immersed in these immersive, super-catchy tunes and listening to them sing about these celestial subjects, it’s easy to forget that Keldian exists as a two-man outfit who don’t tour and who had to raise money for this album by crowdfunding. (Instead of – for example – headlining the PowerProg festival in Atlanta.) But then, the same can be said about all great art – that novel that you lost track of time reading, the one that took you to amazing exotic worlds, came about by one person sitting at their computer, for example. This is when art becomes more than the sum of its parts.
(Check Earthblood here!)
Despite the well-deserved promotion that they’ve been getting from devoted fans, Keldian are still very much an ‘indie band’, which is why I’m going to go out on a limb and straight-up promote them in a very real way: if you liked what you heard in the links throughout this review, go here to buy the CD from the distributor Perris Records, or go here to download the album from Bandcamp. Both options directly support one of the brightest gems of the independent melodic metal scene.
I struggled for a while in choosing which album would introduce music as a regular segment on the Looking Glass; music is the biggest element of my multimedia collection, so I felt somewhat ‘paralyzed by choice’; at the end of the day, I fell on Keldian because their sci-fi and space themes fit like a glove with my own interests, my professional writing, and a lot of the content I discuss on this website. Hope you enjoy the new section as it develops!