Kjeld – Skym Review

Kjeld is a Dutch black metal band, and their debut full-length release is Skym. This was a recommendation to me back when I requested good current black metal to listen to. This definitely scratched that itch. I wanted to review this last week, but felt uncomfortable with certain aspects of the album. These have resolved themselves over another week of listening.

It opens with a down-tempo heavy hitting pulse as it introduces the first riff, but in almost no time the song breaks into fast-paced old school black metal. The dense wall of sound can be overwhelming on a first listen, so I tend to start parsing it with tonality and chords, which hit you all at once. This part of the music immediately drew me in.

Kjeld use a lot of sustained non-chord tones which adds interesting dissonance to the texture of the underlying chord progression. Sometimes these come directly from the guitar, but most of the time there are other sounds incorporated: faint background vocals or synthetic horns or other (I assume they are mostly electronically produced, which gives the sound a nice retro feel at parts).

This album has a semi-traditional form for the chord progressions. Each song has clear, repeated progressions which pull back towards the dominant chord in a traditional manner. But overall, the progression itself meanders to all sorts of unexpected places breaking with a classic progression.

This is, of course, in some sense a defining feature of black metal, but it is nice to hear it done so well. Kjeld proves you can use all sorts of interesting non-traditional chords and dissonance, yet still have a distinctive direction back to the dominant.

The album itself has a lot of repetition, but in a good way. The songs are built around a few riffs that get repeated in various tempos and styles. They have a solid melodic sense for the original riff, and then develop the melody in interesting ways.

For example, “Us Grun” introduces a countermelody at one point. “Stoarm” takes a common idea and develops two distinct melodies out of it for the different sections. The song shifts through more sections than I can count off the top of my head with this common theme throughout and builds up to a full climax.

You may be thinking: so they are good on paper, but no one listens to black metal for these reasons. Is it any good as black metal? Well, I’m loving it so far. It can be cold and terrifying at times, but almost uplifting and epic at others.

There is a consistent raw and visceral feel throughout. The production is high and polished which might turn some really old school purists off, but it works here. They also have a lot of depth to their sound rather than the thinner treble of some older bands in the genre (which is why I think more polish is necessary here).

Overall, I’ll give this a 9/10. I often don’t listen too much after reviewing something, but this will stay in rotation awhile. It’s only March, and I have more that I like this year than half-way through last.

I can’t tell if this is only on pre-order or if it actually released (it is officially out in Google music which is what I use). A full stream can be found through Decibel, so I assume that was a legal leak. Check it out:

Decibel Stream of Kjeld-Skym

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