Keldian – Outbound
Keldian – Outbound (2013)
Reviewed by Daniel Millard
For almost five long years, Keldian fans have held their breath for news of the Norwegian duo’s next science fiction-inspired project. Finally, in late winter of 2013, a crowdfunding effort was announced and enthusiastically greeted by supporters the world over. In brief, Outbound is a story of the success of independent music, it is a story of the grandeur of the infinite cosmos, and ultimately, it is a story of continued musical excellence.
Those of us lucky enough to have been able to back the project were able to hear two songs early: opener “Burn The Sky”, and “Morning Light Mountain”. As “singles” of a sort go, these songs were good choices: they are amongst the most immediately gripping songs on the album, and well placed near the beginning. “Burn The Sky” is a suitably anthemic opening number on par with the melodic finesse of Heaven’s Gate’s “Crusader” or Journey Of Souls’ “The Last Frontier”. “Earthblood” is an interesting tune, and not one that I was prepared to hear the first time it came on. A slower track, at times stomping and at times glimmering like a mirage, it also capitalizes on Keldian’s reputation for unexpectedly gripping melodies. It has proved to be a slow grower for me, and along with the following, somewhat more basic “Never Existed”, is among the less exceptional of the songs here. Considering the overall bulletproof strength of the album, however, this isn’t much of a complaint.
I’d like to pause and comment that everything that made Keldian what it was is here in force on Outbound. The band is undoubtedly sounding more modern and more heavy than ever, and thanks to the increased usage of sound samples, the increased experimentation with tonality, more varied guitar timbres, more active keyboard work, and increased usage of vocal effects, Keldian sounds more varied and subtly progressive than ever before. All of this also has the added effect of making Outbound a more lively-feeling album. Journey Of Souls was a powerful display of smoothness and glossy melodicism, but Outbound just feels more alive, more emotional, more frantic, and more human. The band’s first two albums had a real knack for basic, almost minimalistic efficiency in their melodies, and this was particularly true of the keys. Outbound is less of a simple album: there are more sounds here, and the songs are draped in richer layers than ever before, but the same melodic efficiency can be noted, particularly in the slow but enchanting “Morning Light Mountain”.
“Kepler And 100,000 Stars” hearkens back more readily to the sound the band embraced upon Journey Of Souls, and but for the production, could have been pulled off of that album. This sort of behavior impresses me: though considerably more dynamic than past works, this album flows organically. The band seems to have penned whatever idea came to mind, and built the songs quite naturally. This can be the sort of behavior that leads to too much experimentation, and I’ll admit that upon first listen I was a little perplexed at the new sounds here. Repeated spins, however, have only impressed the band’s matured songwriting upon me. Speaking of maturity, the true test of such a thing tends to be epics (or near-epics, in this case), and the 12 minute “The Silfen Paths” is the longest song the band has ever committed to CD. It’s a bit soft and drawn out at times, with a good deal of light, spacey portions, but the verses and chorus are excellent, the singing superb (Christer is more confident and potent than ever), and I’d quickly call it a success.
Rounding out the album, “Run For Your Life” is another throwback to earlier days, complete with a short but bright guitar solo, and the same textural minimalism that I’ve already discussed;”A Place Above The Air” has a Theocracy and Sonata Arctica-like knack for making a cry of desperation come off as one of the hookiest mid-paced power metal tunes you’ll hear this year; and the backers-exclusive bonus track “Scoundrel Days” (an A-ha cover) is a fun take on the tune, but nothing compared to Keldian’s regular work. Nothing, however, could have prepared me for the album closer proper: “F.T.L.” I’ve been a Keldian fan almost since I’ve been a metalhead, and I remember hearing Heaven’s Gate when it came out in 2007, so it is not lightly that I say that I find “F.T.L.” to be the best song that Keldian has ever written. In my personal book, the blend of tempos, uplifting, adventurous lyricism, and utterly stupendous melody creates an almost spiritual experience.
My final verdict is nearly as good as I’ve given any album. While it seemed a little too experimental and off the beaten path at first, Outbound has thoroughly impressed me. In the interest of getting a review out in short order, all of my listening and writing has occurred inside 24 hours, but I have no doubt that this work will continue to grow on me over the coming weeks and months, as most favorites do. This is Keldian at their most mature, with all the aptitude of prior works.
Outbound is an expression of friends and musicians creating something that is truly overwhelming, it is an expression of near-transcendent inspiration, and it is the story of why I listen to music.
Not even space and time can touch this ship of mine
True pioneers leave everything behind
4.5 // 5