Kromlek // Finis Terrae
Rating: 2.5/5.0Kiddie Kalmah/Bodom for babies.
Label: Trollzorn Records
Websites: bollwerk-kromlek.de/ myspace.com/kromlek
Release Dates: EU: 2011.04.08/15 | US: N/A – Digital Release 04.08.2011

I never heard of these guys before and didn’t know what to expect but they’re described as folk/viking black metal from Germany. Finis Terrae is their third platter and features guest appearances from members of Heidevolk and Equilibrium. Since I wasn’t able to locate their earlier works, I can’t speak intelligently about how this stacks up to their past material but I can say this isn’t what I expected from a viking/folk group. Instead, a lot of Finis Terrae reminds me of a mid-paced, way more melodic version of Children of Bodom with some hints of Kalmah appearing throughout as well. Only during the back half of the album does KromleK employ what could be considered a traditional viking/black metal style and by then it seems out of place after all the COB-lite noodling. Thus, this becomes a tale of two half albums that don’t necessarily compliment each other. While I was pleasantly surprised by the strange, progressive approach on some of the material here, things get pretty uneven and spotty as things move along. What we get left with is a confusing mish-mash of styles and intentions.

While the intro merging pseudo-dance club electronica with ominous marching drums had me clenching my teeth in anticipation of a real musical shit show, “Nekropolis’ Fall” instead comes out swinging with harsh, blackened vocals, decently heavy mid-paced riffing and A LOT of twinkling, pretty keys. This is shockingly melodic stuff with loads of sappy leads that border on bouncy Euro-power metal and a lot of other extraneous fluff and puffery. Only the harsh vocals (mostly shrieked in German) keep this anchored in the realms of extreme music. As hyper-fruity as the music gets (and it gets mighty fruity indeed), it’s actually somewhat engaging and enjoyable, even a tad progressive (those dance club segments resurface here and there in the keys). Elsewhere, “Angrlioo” attacks with blast beats and shrieks but the trilling, melodious guitars and Lady Gaga approved keyboards never stop. This creates a union of beauty and beast elements with a distinct Kalmah vibe (or should I say Klub Kalmah). Follow ups like “The Cocoon,” “Mantikor” and “Manjushri Aus Mir” keep the “Kalmah/COB meets all night rave” style going and all are surprisingly fun and listenable.

It isn’t until track seven, “Moritvrvs Immortalis” that KromLek adopts anything like a viking metal style. Oddly, that’s also when the quality takes a dip too. While not awful, tracks like “Ad Rvbiconem,” “Bastion” and “Creation’s Crowning Glory” just aren’t as enjoyable or fresh sounding as the earlier material and have some really painful moments (I think I heard something about not enjoying the eleventh grade in one song). It also seems strange to jump styles midstream so radically and it left me perplexed as to what these guys were trying to do musically. Only the ginormous fifteen minute plus title track sets things right with a weird amalgam of the two styles. This is a intriguing, oddball number but it works despite the pretentiously overwrought length (including the mandatory whistling wind and marimba outro).

This release is sure to get some interesting feedback and leave many a metal fan scratching his/her head in befuddled confusion. While KromleK‘s sugarcoated, sticky-sweet blackened metal style is amusing, brave and well done, I just couldn’t take the tougher, viking tracks seriously after all the musical mincing, prancing and cavorting. I really wanted to give this a 3.0 but I just couldn’t do it. Check this out if you like super melodic blackened metal or the idea of a more kid friendly Kalmah or COB. Nursery metal for all!

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  • Nyarlathotep

    I listen to a lot of melodic metal. I don’t get this “Cob/Kalmah” criticism. At times it sounds like The Black Waltz a bit, but Bodom? No. I’ve thoroughly listened to both bands and just don’t see the comparison. Haven’t looked at the lyrics, so I don’t know what this “nursery metal” criticism is either. To each his own I suppose…

  • Steel Druhm

    Well since Kalmah is a lot like COB, its hard to say it sounds like one but nothing like the other.

    Nursery metal because its SO melodic at times and veers close to happy Euro-power metal.

    • Nyarlathotep

      Yeah they’re a lot alike in that they are of the same genre. Kalmah and COB are quite different. Lyrically kalmah – god, alcohol. COB – bodom, alcohol. So they both like booze and they are both melodeath. Song structures of the two are decently different. You must dislike melodic metal. Melodeath isn’t divided into “Cob/kalmah” esque and “insomnium” esque. Even if you make that overgeneralization, it doesn’t explain why that is a negative thing, every band has influences.

      It seems you just like to bash melodic metal. It’s melodic, but doesn’t sound like power metal at all. The vox sound like bm. The music is a mix of melodeath, meloblack and folk. Viking metal is more of a lyrical theme, than musical style. Of course some people are going to bash them for using the keyboards to attain a lot of the melody, but to do so doesn’t make sense.

  • Steel Druhm

    I actually like a lot of melodic metal and love power metal. If you go back and read my review, I knocked the rating down because their viking styled tracks were somewhat lame, not because it was too melodic.

  • Charlie

    It’s a shame that you couldn’t find their earlier stuff, Strange Rumours Distant Tremors is one of my favourite records. It’s much more folky instead of electronic- there’s a harpsichord solo at one point- but it keeps the black metal influences running throughout and the vocals are superb. It’s disappointing that this is your first impression of them.

    • dijev

      I agree with you, Charlie. ‘Strange Rumours… distant Tremors’ deserves 4.0/5, imho. Especially the ‘Strandhagg trilogy’, ‘Harvest’ and ‘Grim omens’ are great.

      This new record is certainly a step down, the artwork e.g. is horrific, the drums often sound too synthetic, … 2.75/5

  • Steel Druhm

    Charlie,

    I fully intend to check out their earlier stuff. I liked enough of what I heard here to warrant making the effort. Although my score wasn’t too high, I did enjoy parts of the album quite a bit.

    • dijev

      You might be even more surprised when you get to hear their previous record!

      I hope someone will get to the Brymir record as well (Breathe fire to the sun). Stunning debut!

  • bzzzr

    I have a suspicion Rene Berthiaume from Equilibrium is behind this “nurserification” of metal as you call it, but afaiac, it’s a good thing – I enjoy Equilibrium’s brand of metal.

    If there’s any band this music compares to, it’s not Bodom, but Equilibrium – which is win for me :D