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!