Keep Of Kalessin - 18/06/2008

Keep Of Kalessin is a black metal band from Trondheim, Norway formed in 1993. The band immediately caught the attention from several labels with their demo recording "Skygger av sorg" – which directly resulted in two albums ("Through Times of War" & "Agnen"). Due to personal issues the original line-up of the band split up in 2000, but guitarist, composer and mainman Obsidian C. had set his goals for the band and was determined to continue composing material for a future release. Obsidian C's guitar services was hired by Satyricon in 2003 and countless gigs and tours was the main focus for over a year. All the touring made also room and time for composing and when Satyricon's drummer Frost heard the new material Obsidian C was working on, he immediately recruit when he was asked to do the drums on the EP already in the pipeline. The vocals was done by none other than the legendary Attila Csihar (Mayhem). When the EP entitled ‘Reclaim’ was released in 2004, it was a small appetizer of things to come from Keep Of Kalessin. With it's ultra-fast riffing, brutal, but still very melodic and epic song structures, ‘Reclaim’ detonated in the metal press and media like a bomb. This also marked a whole new era for the band and was the first introduction to the group's new sound and trademark; Epic Extreme Metal.

With touring as one of the band's main priorities, Obsidian C. recruited full time members Vyl (drums), Wizziac (bass) and Thebon (vocals). Their next album, ‘Armada’, was an immense epic masterpiece with its very own unique atmosphere. Press-wise, ‘Armada’ received standing ovations from a unison press chore. Keep of Kalessin immediately set their ship towards the European shores and did four European tours with Exodus, Hypocrisy, Carpathian Forest, Satyricon and Enslaved in the aftermath of the album release.

The new album is entitled ‘Kolossus’ (which came out June 9th) and is anticipated to have a huge impact on the whole metal scene. Recorded in the band's own studio in Trondheim, ‘Kolossus’ is a natural descendant of ‘Armada’, and perfectly reflects the unique musical craftsmanship and the undisputable power of the band. All songs featured on the album are recorded without any clipping or copy/paste technique and all instruments are done in real time. The base of the music has still clear references to black metal, but the band also includes other influences like death metal and thrash metal, making their style fresh and truly unique.

So with a new album out we had the chance to talk to Obsidian C about his new effort, so here we go. 

First of all, how are you?

I’m doing fine. Very pleased with the new album and exited to talk about it.


Your latest album ‘Kolossus’ was released today, so of course we’d like to ask you a couple of questions about it!


How did you launch into writing the material for ‘Kolossus’ after your previous album, did ideas come easily so that you just had to write them down or was it more of a careful composing thing?

It took a while but we got a lot of things done during the tour. Early on the tour we wrote a lot of songs and riffs. We already had lots of loose material and ideas before we entered the studio. We wanted to continue in the line of the 'Armada' album, I had made a few good songs that we definitely had to put on the new album. We had been rehearsing in between tours.  And we couldn’t believe that we ended up with about 13 or 14 songs so we even had to choose between songs.


What were the goals you had in mind when you started to record ‘Kolossus’, did you have a certain idea of what you wanted to do, any elements you definitely wanted to have on the album?

We wanted to have an album that could really follow up the 'Armada' album. We wanted to create some kind of atmosphere that had to go on where Armada ended.  It was all already in my head and we knew what we wanted to create, It also had to be a very epic album. I think we achieved that.


Your new album contains a lot of influences like death, thrash, and even some piano en flamenco guitars so that ‘Kolossus” turns out to be a very wide ranged album. Who wrote  the main parts of the songs? 

I wrote most of the songs and riffs but we did put it together with the whole band.

We tried to arrange everything into complete songs and that worked pretty well for us.


How hard was it to come up with a follow-up on the well-received album ‘Armada’ album ?

Like I said, at first I may have thought about it but I just started writing songs in my mind and on paper and I knew exactly how it had to sound. So it just happened because we stayed in that kind of vibe.


What do you think are the main differences between your last album ´Armada´ and the new one ‘Kolossus´?

For many people it takes a little time and a few listening sessions before they really get the album… You have to listen several times to hear all the details, the music is a bit more complicated.



Who was responsible for the lyrics and how important is it to you that people pay attention to the lyrics apart from listening to the music?

For me personally the music is the most important part. I want people to listen to our music, but we all wrote lyrics together. We write and record all the music before we start with the vocals and lyrics. So we always try to match the lyrics with the songs after the songs are done. Even though the vocals are very much more in the centre of the music now, much more than before, it’s still secondary to me. So we did build up a unique atmosphere with the music and the lyrics together. The thing is that the lyrics can make an album turn out bad or they can enhance it a lot!


In a way, the ‘Kolossus’ story is a continuation of ‘Armada’, can you tell me a little bit more about the lyrics and their meaning?  Where the story about the Armada war stopped we felt we needed to continue the Kolossus story. It’s also about more fictional things and war but you could say it’s almost a second part of one big story.


Could you please describe the implications of the title ‘Kolossus’, what does it stand for and is there a special meaning behind it?

The title was one of the first things that came to mind. We wanted something short and powerful and then my brother mentioned Colossus, we checked the meaning of it and it sounded metal, but we decided it had to be with a K instead of C. We developed the whole concept around that word. It’s a metaphor of the forsaken but more on a fictional level than us being a satanic band. It’s more science fiction and we developed the whole story to the next level, from where Armada stopped. It takes the war to the next level and in the 'Kolossus' track there is a ritual going on for summoning the Kolossus figure.


What about the song writing – how can we imagine you work on new songs? What comes first, lyrics or melodies? Is it like you sit down and write a new song because you need more material now or do you wait until you get an idea?

Melodies and music always come before the lyrics. Mostly ideas for new songs just pop up in your head or while rehearsing. We record them so we don't forget them and then when we want to make a new album, we already have lots of songs waiting to be unleashed.


What is your opinion on the black metal scene these days, is there anything missing?

I think that the scene is very good right now. There are some very big bands in this genre. But the difference is that the underground scene is not that underground anymore. It’s like it is more accepted by more people. There is nothing wrong with that.


The songs on ‘Kolossus’ contain some death and thrash metal influences,  so do you see this album possibly appealing to people that wouldn't have been attracted to Keep Of Kalessin, or indeed, any black metal act previously?

I definitely think this album can reach more different metal heads. There is more thrash, and black metal and some power metal elements. There's a lot of different elements so there is something there for all kinds of metal heads.


How did the recording process proceed and how much time did you spend in the studio? Any difficulties while recording the songs?

Instead of rehearsing for a long time, we rehearsed a bit, made changes and recorded it. We have a very organic production, as opposed to most bands these days. I think this way we got a lot more atmosphere. We didn’t take that long in the studio actually.


Have you received any feedback on the new album yet? How do you feel about this album – are you satisfied with the outcome or would you have liked to have changed anything in retrospective?

Oh yes, we had a lot of good comments, but it’s important that people listen to it more than once. In Europe there were good reviews, in Norway the metal media said it was a little less than Armada. But I really would like it if people gave the album a little more time and listened to it a few times. If they did, they would hear something new every time they played it. To me, when it’s done, it’s done. No changes, just give it to the people like it is. When we said the album was done we were all satisfied with it. So no changes.


Do you have any favorites on ‘Kolossus’, songs that you think are somehow above the others?

I think that every time I hear the album, another song is my favorite. I guess I like a lot of songs and can’t really make up my mind yet. But I can tell you that “Ascendant” is one of my personal favorites and “Escape the Union” in the middle of the album. But you should play it a few times and you’ll be surprised. And of cause the title track “Kolossus” is one of my favorites.


I saw you guys play a couple of times last year, but what I miss is a second guitar player that can add more aggression in your (live) sound. On the other hand, your music is complicated so it is probably difficult to work with another guitar player. Do you have any plans to add one in the future?

We have thought about it and tried some guys. But there is so much to it, more costs on tour, more difficult to plan with all the different agenda’s. It costs shitloads of extra money if you have one person more. So we figured out that if  we can’t find the right person, long hair, pretty and doing the shows for free J we will bring our own sound engineer. It's so much better than not having your own sound guy! This way we can also take it to the next level. I don’t think people will miss a second guitar when they see us live.


How was the US tour with Dimmu Borgir + Behemoth, what was it like to play the larger venues like the Warfield in SF?

It was really amazing, it was the best tour we had ever done. The venues were always completely filled up, even when we entered the stage. The other bands were great to us and we sold a lot of merchandise. So it was awesome!!


Last year you also played some of the bigger festivals, if you compare that to the smaller gig venues, what are the differences for you and which kind of shows do you prefer yourself?

They both have their charms. In small venues you have more personal contact with the people. The big places are amazing, it’s good fun to play for so many people in a big place.



Ok, some personal questions to end this interview with:


With such a big fusion of styles in your music, are there any particular bands who’ve been a big influence in your song writing, metal or otherwise?

 I grew up with bands like Guns and Roses, Iron Maiden and Metallica, but I listen now to a lot of different music, I have a very varied taste in music. The influences would be Iron Maiden and old Metallica and all kinds of different influences. I listen to so many things, not just metal but even the strangest things get my attention.


What can we expect in the future from Keep Of Kalessin?

We will be seeing you around when we come over again! A good tour soon to promote the new album.


Can you tell us something more about your (thrash metal) side project I read about.

It’s called Headspin and it’s a project of Wizziac, Vyl and me and hopefully the album will come out this year. It’s a bit like Exodus, thrash and pretty heavy! We will see what’s going to happen with our “Headspin”.


Every band seems to have had some sort of Spinal Tap moment during their career when touring or whatever. Do you have any disasters or funny stories from the road?

Spinal Tap moments happen all the time. Once I couldn’t find the stage when I had to get on. I ripped my leather pants and the guitar technician had to tape my ass and so on… Those will not be the last Spinal Tap moments.

Is there anything left unmentioned, any last statement or anything you'd like to add...

We recorded a new video, it’s a very visual and people should check it out!


Thanks for the interview!
(Talitha Martijn)



Albums :

Through Times of War (1997)

Agnen: A Journey Through the Dark (1999)

Reclaim (EP) (2003)

Armada (2006)

Kolossus (2008)


Current members :

Obsidian C. (A.O Gronbech) - Guitars, Synth

Thebon - Vocals

Wizziac - (Robin)Bass

Vyl (Vegar Larsen) - Drums


Former members :

Attila Csihar - Vocals - (Reclaim EP)

Frost (Kjetil Haraldstad) - Drums - (Reclaim EP)

Ghâsh - Vocals - (1996-1999)

Warach (Øyvind A.Winther) - Bass - (1996-1999)

Cernunnus (Tor-Helge Skei) - Live guitars

Kesh - Session Bass  
Keep Of Kalessin - Kolossus