Norwegian super-duo studio project Keldian has the dubious honor of being one of my favorite sources of music. And like so many of my “favorites,” they’re only power metal in an occasional/secondary fashion – though that remains the sub-genre of heavy metal to which the band is most easily marketed. Their albums frequently dip into space rock, symphonic rock, AOR, and now, even Eurobeat in varying measure to round out a sound that, love it or hate it, is utterly unmistakable. The release of 2013’s Outbound was a lance of brilliant solar energy that ignited the band’s fan-base and whipped long-timers and newcomers alike into a frenzy. While none of us expected another end-to-end burner like Outbound, the general vibe that Christer Andresen and Arild Aardalen exude is one of utter consistency and reliability. In this day and age, these are precious commodities, particularly within the metal scene. So when the rather simplistic hard rock tune “Blood Red Dawn” dropped as a single in conjunction with a rather austere, non-cosmic album cover, a slight sense of panic gripped the particular circle of Keldian fans among whose number I count myself.

I confess that this sense of panic gradually transitioned to disappointment by the time I’d finished the third song on Darkness and Light. Keldian has always had a penchant for effective minimalism in its compositions when it comes to use of guitar and keys – remaining texturally sparse in comparison to most of its metal contemporaries – but the opening tracks of this album set a new standard even for them. Finding these songs at first unambitious, basic almost to a fault, and seemingly devoid of Keldian’s well-established preference for overt science fiction lyricism, I feared that the perils of age and shifting musical tastes might have claimed yet another victim… and then the Bandcamp stream rolled over to “Life And Death Under Strange New Suns,” and my giblets were well and truly handed to me on a slab of starship-quality palladium plating.

You see, each Keldian release managed without fail to present a single, highly energetic and original song which, all other compositions aside, has entrenched the album in my consciousness and assisted in my re-visitation and eventual affection for the whole. This trend began with “Sundancer” from Heaven’s Gate and “Ghost of Icarus” from Journey of Souls, and continued in strong fashion with “F.T.L.” on Outbound. “Life And Death Under Strange New Suns” hammers home on multiple points: high energy, a tremendously infectious chorus, and (at last) lyrics inspired by the much-adored Mass Effect universe.

And just like that, the floodgates opened. “I’m The Last Of Us” presents a reprise of the gradually building, epic-length attempt a la “The Silfen Paths,” and succeeds in spectacular fashion; “Broadside!” provides another much-needed shot of uptempo metallic energy; and “Crown Of Starlight” hearkens back to the synthy, recessed-vocal atmospheric glory that pervaded much of Journey of Souls. Upon repeat listens, the album’s prosaic openers blossomed, though I would still classify them as Keldian’s least thrilling music to date. Interestingly, while Keldian has always dabbled in secondary genres, Darkness and Light brings to the fore a strong Eurobeat/synthpop presence, which is most notable during “Change The World” and “Crown Of Starlight.” What I find particularly remarkable is how this trend seems like a natural extension of Keldian’s style, especially looking back at Heaven’s Gate and Journey of Souls, rather than some bizarre sonic protuberance.

I can say in confidence, that Darkness and Light is probably my least favorite of the starfaring sojourner’s universally great catalog of albums to date, but that statement is galvanized with the caveat that those whose preferences tend toward hard rock and synthpop (as opposed to speed-addicted powerheads like myself) will find this a strong offering. Finding suitable artistic analogies is always a challenge for this group – one might cite certain tunes from Voyager or Arjen Lucassen’s Star One, but the comparison is still tenuous at best. Existing fans of the band should not under any circumstances experience serious disappointment, and the album offers a fairly representative and digestible spread of music for those listening for the first time. With synthy hauntings and vocal broadsides alike, Keldian sings its songs under strange new suns and emerges once more with melodic fervor.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
Label: Perris Records
Releases Worldwide: October 27th, 2017

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  • Shawn Cypher

    The embedded track instantly made me think, “This is fun”

  • Malhorne

    I clearly agree, this is my least favorite release by them, but still sounds good (even if 4 seems a bit too high imo)

    • It didn’t initially read like a 4.0 to me, either, and it’s admittedly not really Muppet music, but my two cents say that the album’s ability to reshape the author’s first impression speaks to its strength and testifies to its being something special, thus making a 4.0 a reasonable score. They would have been lucky for a 3.5 from me with that boring artwork, but I know better than to go after power metal in the first place.

      • Malhorne

        I get your point.
        Even if I would assign a 3.5 haha

      • Swordborn

        This is like my #5 for the year, and I love it even with a couple squishier tracks. I have no regrets.

  • Levly

    The synthpop is a little too much for me but I’m intrigued at least, so I’ll check out Outbound, since it seems to be their best work.

  • HeavyMetalHamster

    Loved their last album.
    As a huge 80’s synthpop and metal fan this ticks all the right boxes for me!
    And anything remotely Voyager esque is an automatic win.

  • Man this band is good

  • Sentyneli

    You had me at “Mass Effect”.

    • Nukenado

      If they had truly followed up Mass Effect, the last track would be a short, lacklustre instrumental and then they would release a free to download track to remedy the lacklustre single.

      • Swordborn


        The Andromeda hate is strong with this one.

        • Nukenado

          Actually, my post was on the original ME3 ending instead of Andromeda, which I have not yet played.
          Amusing how Andromeda reception has been similar to the ME3 ending when compared to the original trilogy.

  • I am wildly indifferent to these tunes, and yet once again I enjoy of deep review. Excellent writeup, we just might make it to #3 with you at our side.

  • GardensTale

    I wouldn’t have been interested at all if you hadn’t namedropped Voyager.

    • HeavyMetalHamster

      My world needs more bands that sound like Voyager.

    • Swordborn

      That’s a pretty tangential name drop at that. Interested to see what you think of the comparison, but I hear some similarities, especially from V’s “I Am The ReVolution” era.

      • HeavyMetalHamster

        Ill mention it to Simone and see what she thinks. I think there is a lot of similarities personally.

  • Ville Lahtivirta

    They have just the right grease % in their cheese.

  • Nukenado

    Mmmm… synths. The ice cream of the metal world, and this band doesn’t force feed me more than I can handle.

  • The Unicorn
    • André Snyde Lopes

      Best buds.

    • I’m not much for the embedded track, but this photo is beautiful.

  • Norpal Nordickson

    Good review. My journey with this album was pretty similar, too. The single and the two other first songs were a liiittle bit disappointing, not bad at all but merely “okay”. But then that fourth song kicked in and hooooolyyy shiiieeeet. I’m still not wholly in love with the opening trio, but they’re nice enough songs and a good warmup for the staggeringly good rest of the album.

    I still cannot pick a favourite between these four albums, I just love them all dearly and equally.

    • Swordborn

      I can readily say that Outbound is my favorite, but I have trouble after that. No one sounds like these guys.

      • HeavyMetalHamster

        I think a lot has to do with the vocals. That silky smooth slightly accented delivery is very easy to listen to and really makes the hooks pop.

  • GoudhaBuddha
  • Yolo Swaggins

    This is too happy for me. Where did all our dreary music go? Time to listen to some more Hallatar…

  • beurbs

    I think I’m gonna take a break from veganism to enjoy this cheese.

  • Tofu muncher

    “love it of hate it”? That’s a resounding love from this corner. Not a fan of that band photo tho

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    I was wondering why the album art struck a chord with me. Then I recalled I had actually walked through that door! So I’m back to say that I’m pretty sure it’s a desaturated photo of the entry to a very cool James Turrell installation art piece, where he uses colour fields in a room to mess with your sense of depth. Nice cover and and a really great piece of art to see if a Turrell exhibition ever comes to your town.

  • HeavyMetalHamster

    These guys and Serenity are my PM golden finds of 2017.
    Thanks AMG for spreading the good news.

  • brutal_sushi

    And here I was jamming Journey of Souls yesterday thinking, I would love a new Keldian album.

  • JL

    this is the worst Keldian release yet and honestly doesn’t deserve a 4. it’s probably a 3 tops. no songs anywhere near as powerful as Redshift or Lords of Polaris, for example. Still good but not great.