Title: A Heart of Lead
Label: Debemur Morti Productions
Release Date: 15 February 2019
Format reviewed: Flac
Ahh, Iceland. Is there something not to love about it? Stunning landscapes, beautiful waterfalls, the aurora borealis, bleak weather, low human density and a flourishing metal scene. This beautiful yet depressing setting is fuel for Iceland’s particular brand of frigid black metal and as you might know already, the end product is almost always exceptional. I’m really happy bands like Wormlust, Carpe Noctem, Svartidauði and others are getting more attention from bigger publications and in this way pave the way for newcomers. In this context Draugsòl came to be and released one album before the co-founding duo decided to change the band’s name to KALEIKR.
With “A Heart of Lead”, the band departures from its original sound and decides to do something that separates them from their peers and I can tell you now they succeeded at that without a doubt. Their sound I think could be best described as extreme progressive metal, because trying to pinpoint them in a certain sub-genre is a waste of time.
The album consists of 7 songs that add up at almost 50 minutes of playtime. The opener “Beheld at Sunrise” greets the listener with a gentle piano, then strings and percussion before the guitar and vocals take the main stage. Even if it’s 7 minutes long, the piece feels like a massive intro that prepares you for the meditative yet fatiguing listen. The aptly named “The Descent” explores more thoroughly what the previous piece built and showcases the bands talent at blending different influences without focusing too much on any of them and so having a very well balanced mix. The rest of the songs continue in the same manner and add up to form a rollercoaster of feelings.
The title of the album is not chosen in vain. “A Heart of Lead” sets out from the first second to grab your attention and to challenge you to get through to the end. It will also leave you with a heavy heart, no pun intended. It’s tiring to listen to the whole thing, and I don’t mean it in a bad way. It’s crystal clear that the themes explored here are about mental and emotional exhaust and the music complements these ideas. All the songs are laced with psychedelic tones that build a maddening atmosphere but the music is no where near chaotic. This is another aspect that I really appreciate about the album, its mind twisting technicality, with a nod here to the absolute precision of the drumming. The percussion here awes not with inhuman speed but with jaw dropping complexity. All these elements combined paint the image of a very complex equation that you desperately try to solve but you do not prevail.
Even so, the album is not perfect. The one thing that disappoints me is how it closes. I believe the last song, “Eternal Stalemate And A Never-ending Sunset”, is not the right one to close the record with. The rest of the album is truly intense and so I expected the finale to follow in the same manner, but I was left waiting.
In the end, this debut has way more strengths than weaknesses and shows great things to come for this genre bending unit. Even after multiple listens, I discover new layers that make me fall in love even more with the album. This is the type of listening experience that makes me the happiest: the one that makes me work to understand its meaning but at the end gives you only a piece so you have to get back in and work for more. 9 /10 Metal Gentleman
9/10 Epic Storm
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