Kjeld Skym 01When reviewing an album, I like to start with a few “blind” listens in which I completely ignore the nice promo materials the label sends in favor just listening to the music with zero preconceptions or knowledge outside of the album title, band name, and whatever I may or may not know about their previous work. When further listening to Skym and reading everything the good folks at Hammerheart sent our way about Kjeld, I was surprised. Not in the “huh, neat” way, but in Keanu Reeves’ infamous “whoa” way.

Kjeld call their genre “Frisian black metal,” which is described as being steeped in the Scandinavian tradition. To my ears, Kjeld is heavily influenced specifically by the classic Norwegian second wave scene. I don’t like excessive name dropping, but there are traces of Taake, Darkthrone, Gorgoroth, Immortal, Ulver circa Bergtatt and Nattens Madrigal, and pre-Prometheus Emperor (minus the keyboards) coherently scattered throughout Skym, and Kjeld manages to blend all of these influences like spices into their own broth. This leads to a frigid, punishing, and viciously melodic record that’s a consistently exciting listen. The promo sheet name-checked zero bands, recommending Skym simply to fans of black metal; after numerous listens, it becomes readily apparent that this was a wise choice.

Kjeld doesn’t endeavor to be a jack of all trades, instead focusing all of their energy into creating excellent prefix-less black metal with zero gimmickry. Skym isn’t treating Transylvanian Hunger and Nattens Madrigal as Platonic forms to be emulated yet never duplicated, but rather building atop the foundation laid by those and other classics. “Stoarm” is a prime example of this, merging Immortal‘s taste for the epic side of black metal with both Ulver‘s spot-on ear for melody and Taake‘s aggressiveness, and even incorporates some death metal influences in a way comparable to Emperor‘s IX Equilibrium. While not every song hits the lofty heights of “Stoarm,” there isn’t a dud among the eleven tracks here nor even a weak riff to pick on.

Kjeld Skym 02Skym eschews trebly “old-school” production in favor of a meaty and modern sound that’s still natural, giving the energetic Gorgoroth-isms of “Brek En Bran” a punishing weight that serves to enhance the great riffs therein, with the obvious lack of help the band got in the studio further supplementing the enjoyment. I was surprised to learn that Skym clocks in at DR6, but it’s a classic case of “listen to the music instead of the numbers,” as an almost brickwalled master doesn’t destroy a solid mix. “Gjin Ferjouwing” is built around numerous variations on its main theme, and this approach makes for an interesting few minutes that’s long enough to allow Kjeld to do everything they want to do and short enough to never grow tiresome; the hour long runtime belies the band’s knack for editing, but it’s tough to complain when the material so often rests between great and excellent and left me wanting more each time it finished.

This brings us to what truly surprised me: Skym is Kjeld’s debut full-length. While they’ve been around since 2004 and feature members of Lugubre and other Dutch black metal bands, they’d released two whole songs on an EP in 2010 prior to now. The maturity, confidence, and raw songwriting chops that permeate Skym is stunning for a debut and instead of different musicians bringing their B-grade outtakes to a side project, Kjeld sounds like a monolith with the goal of writing high quality black metal. They succeed with aplomb, and Skym is a celebration of how exciting black metal can be when it’s not just taken back to its roots, but allowed to grow outwards from them in subtle yet meaningful directions.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Hammerheart Records
Website: Facebook.com/Kjeld
Release Dates: EU: 2015.03.02 | NA: 03.10.2015

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  • BarryLeFreak

    Huh the review sounded like a 4 or 4.5. Gonna give this a listen :)

    • It was a 4.0.

      • Excentric_1307

        It sounded a bit like a 6 to me… Wait, DR score, or music score?

  • Lasse Momme

    you are just cracking out black metal reviews left and right this year. I’ll have to check this out, sounds pretty darn interesting.

  • Monsterth Goatom

    Really nice drum work. Their drummer, Fjildslach, sure knows his way around the kit.

    It would appear the album and band name are a nod to The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim console game (minus the -ri-). I’ve never played the game, but apparently Kjeld is some sort of leader dude in the world.

    Oh, and if you see Madame X anywhere, tell her I finally “get” Décembre Noir’s “A Discouraged Believer”.

    • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

      While I can’t find a translation for “Skym”, “Kjeld” means “cold” in Frisian, which is quite fitting. I’m actually part Frisian myself, so digging through that specific part of Dutch history to figure out what “Skym” references should be pretty interesting on a heritage level at least.

      • Monsterth Goatom

        Interesting. Maybe I’m wrong about the Elder Scrolls association, and it’s just one of those funny coincidences.

        I was thinking later that, if there is any kind of association with the game, maybe they shortened “Skyrim” to “Skym” to avoid a cease and desist letter from the game makers. That might explain why there’s no translation for “Skym”. Just my WAG.

        • Kâld

          “Skym” actually means: Shade, Spirit, in Frisian
          Albeit i find the skyrim reference very amusing

          • Monsterth Goatom

            It just struck me. Is this “Kâld”, as in guitarist for Kjeld? If so, congrats on the new album. Really enjoying it. I thought I was being so smart and perceptive with my Elder Scrolls brain fart, and now here I am with egg on my face.

          • Kâld

            Shit..looks like i’m busted! Anyways thank you for the kind words and don’t worry i lost waaaaaaay to many hours in that game as well! (there’s a NPC called Kjeld too in that game, what are the odds right?)

            Thx To Diabolus in Muzaka as well for the great review, i enjoyed the read very much!

          • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

            Thank you, glad you enjoyed it! Congrats on Skym’s success!

          • blackyard

            Man I have to hand it to you guys – one of the best black metal releases I’ve heard in quite a while, especially for a debut LP.

  • Francesco Bordoni

    Great Hades, this album blasts! m/

  • Wilhelm

    I would like a slightly better DR, but for what it is, it’s not too bad; a good balance of melody and aggression.

  • Kreegwaldo

    Damn this is really fucking good!

    I also get a real Nord-era Setherial vibe too ( not with the vocals but the melody & instrument tone ) which I guess is pretty indicative of the genre & time they are emulating.

    Man as I keep listening ( album is on Google Play Music! ) there’s more and more good shit. The song Skym also has a very Khold vibe with the black n’ roll riffing.

    What an excellent album, thanks for reviewing this!

  • Dr. A.N. Grier

    Shit! How am I suppose to get any work done when you keep finding good albums!

  • Guest

    The band is actually Dutch, with the word “Frisian” they are referring to a Dutch provence, called Friesland. Frisian gals tend to be regionalists :p.
    Just thought I’d explain. Good review though!

  • Flush00Gordon

    This sounds like “Nattens Madrigal”? Yeah, sure it does.

  • Kryopsis

    The embedded track is excellent and definitely elicits a Keanu ‘Woah’ reaction. I will definitely check out the rest on Google Play!

  • It just struck me this cover looks way too much like the cover from Where No Life Dwells by Unleashed, and they kinda ripped off their logo to boot!