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Kielwater is a progressive metal band from Lithuania which has existed under the banner of Spellbound since 1992. Many band members were replaced over and over again through the years, and it took the band until 2012 to release a full length release entitled Flirting With Disaster. Guess what?, this album is extremely good, and no disaster at all. In comparison to other genre bands, Kielwater has a heavy sound. The guitar riffs are sharp and in your face, but not stupidly brutal. The instrumental work is very appealing, especially in the bridges of the songs where one can recognize gloomy folk and jazz influences, but this kind of album isn’t too challenging. It could easily please heavy, power, and thrash metal fans for example. The powerful female vocals complete and underline the band’s unique approach, and are one of the best of their kind.
This record can sort of be divided into three stylistically different sections. There are rather challenging and progressive tracks, more grounded and catchy songs with some serious hit potential, and a few short, straight songs that most progressive metal bands are missing in their repertoires. Imagine a mixture of Heaven’s Cry, After Forever, and Benedictum, and you might come close to the final result displayed on Flirting With Disaster.
The band chose to open the album with its most courageous track. Even after six or seven spins of “In Sight”, I’m not quite sure how to feel about it. To say the least, this song is fascinating. First of all, the instrumental introduction is rather technical and rather hard to digest. A really weird drum sound that makes me think of a Wimbledon court tennis match increases this odd feeling. The vocals remind me of several symphonic metal bands, but also of Arabian folk songs, and this comes as another surprise, while turning out to be rather catchy. From time to time, the song throws in a few guttural and demonic screams that send shivers down my spine. Imagine a horror movie or video game involving an ugly witch and the way her voice is synchronized with the music, and you can imagine the result here. Over a running time of almost eight minutes, this song never really gets boring, and introduces us to a multitude of controversial ideas. Hats off to the band for opening its record with such a unique track. “Demons” fittingly goes back to the use of these weird vocal effects, and adds a few apocalyptic guitar sounds as well. Without any brutality, the horror atmosphere is nearly perfect here.
Another brave standout is the challenging “Waist To Dust”, due to its extraordinary instrumental work. Despite being one of the shorter songs, this is probably the most progressive experiment on the album. Especially when looking at the funky bass guitar part in the middle and the mixture of Arabian folk elements with some almost free jazz-sounding parts, it’s an impressive song.
Moving on to the more accessible songs, the calm and mysterious “Fourfold” convinces with enchanting and laid back vocals on one side, and a dark and dominating bass guitar on the other. The chorus is really strong, and several female-fronted power and symphonic metal bands would go green with envy if they were to hear this perfectly balanced mixture between experimentation and catchy hooks. The powerful heavy metal-inspired closer “Even If I Wish It” is another catchy song that ends the album on a very strong note. It brings the hooks once again with a balanced mixture of acoustics and strong, mid-tempo riffs that build up a gloomy atmosphere.
Apart from the progressive and the more accessible songs, there are also a few truly heavy tracks on this release. First of all, I’ll mention the heavy mid-tempo stomper “Whatever”, that has a chaotic instrumental basis, but some of the most varied vocal work on the album. The singer manages a few catchy hooks, but also hits some higher and almost hysterical-sounding notes. The track sounds rather angry on the whole, and that’s why it’s so engaging. Another addicting cut of this kind is the thrash-driven “Are You Satisfied”, thanks to an extremely strong vocal performance that delivers many catchy melodies. This song also sounds angry, but in a less chaotic manner, and is based on equally powerful riffs.
Kielwater is still a relatively unknown band from Vilnius, and here’s hoping that my review can contribute to change this, because this quintet really deserves your attention. The band offers a highly diverse and entertaining record for heavy progressive metal fans. Its mixture of technically appealing instrumentation and creative songwriting is supported by catchy hooks and beefy riffs that provide a breath of fresh air for the genre. If you are hesitating due to the female vocals, let me tell you that they sound much better than many male counterparts and add a lot of powerful charisma to the sound of the band.
Originally written for Black Wind Metal