Obsidian Claw - Keep Of Kalessin
Once I was given the opportunity to hear an advance of the new Keep of Kalessin album 'Reptilian', I jumped at the chance to interview founding member Obsidian Claw, for the second time.
We discussed the Norwegian awards, for which the band has been nominated, including the Eurovision Song Contest. They have received a lot of flak for entering this pop oriented event, but I feel that they have helped to open new doors for the metal milieu. I learned a lot about the importance of being a fan, and some of the process a still struggling band in Europe must undergo.
MettleMaiden: First of all I want to thank you, Obsidian, for taking the time out to do these phone interviews, I really do appreciate it. I do admit that I am a tad bit nervous, even though we have met in person, and I did interview you by phone last year.
MettleMaiden: Yes, this is true. I get like this when I am doing interviews. My husband has been doing interviews for years, but when he gets an opportunity to speak with someone famous, he becomes all jitters too.
MettleMaiden: If you recall, I first fell into the unique stylings of Keep Of Kalessin when you opened for Dimmu Borgir and Behemoth a couple of years ago in Cincinnati, at Bogarts. Do you recall this?
MettleMaiden: It was indeed. I loved your music, and stage presence. Wizziac was a metal windmill. I did my very first interview at that show with Erkekjetter Silenoz.
MettleMaiden: We saw you again on the "Death By Decibels" tour, the night before Helloween and Gamma Ray in Chicago at The Pearl Room. I heard that they closed this awesome venue.
MettleMaiden: Yeah, I guess there were too many problems, and after the Exodus fiasco, where the band was banned. I do miss that club, and their cool backstage. I guess it is back to Kentucky or Cleveland to see shows.
MettleMaiden: I know, and I am hoping to catch you this fall in one or the other location. I guess it will be either Headliners in LouisvilIe, or Peabody's in Cleveland. If you also recall, I even bought the limited edition green gatefold vinyl version of 'Kolossus'. This is an excellent album by the way, but the new one shows even more maturity.
MettleMaiden: I received your new album 'Reptillian' digitally about a week ago, and I have given it several listens. I really noticed that you have put your whole heart into making more progress towards extreme music.
MettleMaiden: I think that it is wonderful how you enlisted Daniel Bergstrand's talents for production values. I was wondering, did he also produce 'Armada'?
MettleMaiden: My mistake, but, with all the work you do, I am sure you appreciated his assistance and qualifications? I assume that you recorded this in your own Morningstar Studio?
MettleMaiden: I am sure you discover that this allows for more artistic freedom. Did you start recording right after the last tour?
MettleMaiden: Well, I am glad you got a little bit of a break after the lengthy tour!
MettleMaiden: I am sure he was swamped with other projects.
MettleMaiden: Well, what did you do while you were waiting on Daniel to assist you?
MettleMaiden: Now that is getting a head start!
MettleMaiden: This seems to be quite common with dedicated musicians. They are already writing new material, before their already completed, new album is even released.
MettleMaiden: It sounds like you got a lot accomplished though. I have read that you will have your album release party on May 15th in Norway.
MettleMaiden: Yeah, It seems like we always have to wait here an extra month for something which has already been released overseas. That is just not right! Usually with Nuclear Blast, a new album will appear in our podcast the same date as its European release date.
MettleMaiden: This is usually what we do, as we hate to wait. Now many digital sites like Amazon and I-tunes also make new music available on the date when it comes out overseas.
MettleMaiden: I still do not like having to wait an extra month.
MettleMaiden: Oh, well that makes sense. This way you have a month to tour before your local venues close. Well, I can accept this, as we seldom really have that problem here. If a club closes, it is for good, like the Pearl Room. Our problem is that not too many good Metal shows come to Cincinnati. This means we have to travel north or south, depending.
MettleMaiden: I got my digital copy legitimately, and believe me I do not share. That would not be fair to you, or other musicians. I have been telling my friends what a great album I think it is.
MettleMaiden: It looks as though you have had quite a bit of excitement here over the past couple of years. First you were nominated in 2008 for the Spellemannprisen?
MettleMaiden: That's what I thought. It must have been exciting for a metal act to get nominated.
MettleMaiden: You are more deserving than Enslaved. I know they are your label mates, but they have not been too original for ages.
MettleMaiden: Those bastards!
MettleMaiden: Enslaved did not release any new material in 2010, so hopefully you can finally win! This year you were also in the Melodi Grand Prix, which I believe is the pre-Eurovision award, and you placed third. That is quite an accomplishment, even if some of your fans think you are sell-outs just for entering.
MettleMaiden: Well, I am also a Lordi fan, and when they won it, it was a first for the metal milieu. They are more Traditional Metal sounding, so for an extreme Metal band like Keep Of Kalessin, for you to have climbed as far as you did, this is most impressive.
MettleMaiden: Like they say, there is no such thing as bad press...
MettleMaiden: That would be well deserved.
MettleMaiden: I have listened to 'Reptillian' a few times now, and I must say I hear more Thrash elements, than on your previous albums. I also detect a little bit of a Power Metal influence. The opening track, "Dragon Iconography" is a little more epic. Is this the new direction Keep Of Kalessin is heading in, or is it just how you chose to write the album? The melodies really make my head spin.
MettleMaiden: Yes, I can see that.
MettleMaiden: Power Metal has become a common label, and lost its real edge. The True '80s Power Metal bands, are now linked with a bit of the keyboardy over the top acts. When I refer to you having Power Metal inspiration, I am alluding to Gamma Ray, Blind Guardian, early Running Wild, and their ilk. Clearly there is a strong Emperor presence, and your rivals - Enslaved - are mirrored there as well.
MettleMaiden: Please do not misconstrue my evaluation. The overall vibe is far from being straight Power Metal. It just has a little more of that flavour, probably because of the vocals, which remind me at times of Kai Hansen from Gamma Ray.
MettleMaiden: They are one of mine too. Actually, they are the reason why we caught you on the "Death By Decibels" leg in Chicago.
MettleMaiden: My husband and I drove all that way to see Gamma Ray with Helloween, and decided to arrive a day early to rest and psyche our selves up. It just happens that "Death By Decibels" was the day before, and we were able to get on the guest list thanks to Maurizio of Kataklysm.
MettleMaiden: I agree!
MettleMaiden: Listening to Gamma Ray does not make you gay! Maybe if Logar's Diary, Highlord, or later Labyrinth, are your choice selections, you could be giving your friend, a bro job, but Gamma Ray are not, they are awesome speed Power metal, with a great sense of humour!
MettleMaiden: Hell, even Kai made the moves on me right in front of my husband, but he was a bit drunk, and my husband was so thrilled to have interviewed him earlier before the show.
MettleMaiden: I agree, please elaborate.
MettleMaiden: Who can say?
MettleMaiden: I like the sheep and music wave analogy, I wonder if that is why Keep Of Kalessin is not doing better than it has so far?
MettleMaiden: That whole church burning Norwegian Black Metal scene is bogus.
MettleMaiden: There are some excellent bands from Norway like Gaia Epicus and Guardians Of Time, who just recently reformed. Now Varg "Count Grishnackh" Vikernes of the bullshit Burzum is finally out of jail, and we all know Jon Nödtveidt of Dissection killed himself in 2006. I feel that Keep Of Kalessin has a lot to offer, especially with the new album. Will you offer a special edition of 'Reptillian' as you did with Kolossus?
MettleMaiden: Then I should still be able to find it! With the digital version that I have sometimes find it difficult to understand Thebon's lyrics. However, I do hear a reference to 'Kolossus'. Does this suggest a continuation of the 'Kolossus' storyline?
MettleMaiden: Then what you are implying is that each song essentially stands on its own.
MettleMaiden: Let us discuss the fall US Tour which you are planning with Ex Deo and Nile. Did this come about because you are all labelmates? Did the fact that Karl Sanders writes about Egyptian mythology, and Maurizio adores the Roman Empire factor in?
MettleMaiden: Both bands have unique guitar structural arrangements, as well.
MettleMaiden: Well, no matter whom you tour with, I am planning to catch your show! Are you planning a video to go with the release of 'Reptillian'?
MettleMaiden: That would be an undertaking since it is 14 minutes long!
MettleMaiden: I would love to see a video for "Reptilian Majesty", that's an excellent song! I do understand the cost factor for making a good video though.
MettleMaiden: When I sampled the tracks on your My Space page, I detected a little bit of Hexenhaus, Reverend, and clearly classic Exodus.
MettleMaiden: I must admit there new album is way better than the one previous to it.
MettleMaiden: My husband got me into to Exodus. We saw them on our 5th anniversary. Michael spoke with Gary Holt, on his birthday, just last week and did an interview,. It is sad the number of underrated bands out there, I think Keep Of Kalessin is one of them, that is why I always support you.
MettleMaiden: Unfortunately since I am a woman in America, who lives for metal, a lot of people do not take me seriously.
MettleMaiden: Well, it is still not that common in the US for a woman (no less a wife and mother) to actually be a metalhead and not a "tag along" at a concert with her boyfriend. Switching gears, and keeping in mind our time allotment, how do you feel Keep Of Kalessin has grown as band with these past few albums?
MettleMaiden: You mean it is make it or break it time?
MettleMaiden: Which is why fans like myself purchase lots of merch.
MettleMaiden: I hear you....
MettleMaiden: I would really miss it if you stopped touring, since that is how I discovered you. It sucks that Dimmu also has gone undergone such dramatic line-up shifts. You have such a great stage presence, and the band is quite captivating. I had to stop and tune in to your music, and this led to my instantly becoming a fan.
MettleMaiden: Well, I really hope 'Reptillian' is successful enough to keep you going and gets you the recognition which you deserve.
MettleMaiden: I would like to see you headline, and play a much longer set.
MettleMaiden: As I mentioned earlier, I actually bought the 'Kolossus' vinyl to show my support for you, since Nuclear Blast had already sent me the promo CD. Plus, come on, it was a cool green gate-fold!
MettleMaiden: Well it is only fair, since I know how much work goes into recording, getting the CDs out, securing the proper tours, etc. I know that this is a lot of work.
MettleMaiden: You mean if they are not able to attend the show for some reason, even if they really want to? It is a definitely Catch 22 situation.
MettleMaiden: I know how hard you struggle to recuperate the cost for a CD by touring, but you can not get on a good tour unless your have great CD sales first. The whole system is fucked!
MettleMaiden: I see I am actually over my time here, so I better let you get to your other interviews.
MettleMaiden: Really? Do you ever get a break, or are you always working?
MettleMaiden: Good for you! Thank you again, Brother, I have really enjoyed doing this interview, I sincerely hope that 'Reptillian' does well for you so Keep Of Kalessin may continue.
See also: review of the album Reptilian