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journey of SUCK - 20%

caspian, November 24th, 2013

The idea of this band certainly appealed to me, as I guess it does to anyone who enjoys some spacey sounds/has played Master of Orion/Mass Effect etc. Euro-power turned into something a bit more spacey, a bit more cosmic, like maybe Lost Horizon with a huge helping of strange synth sounds and an even bigger atmosphere- why not, right?

The obvious "but" here is that Keldian don't really approach it that way. Instead there's a tendency to remove basically the few remaining metal elements from a Stratovarius album, replace it with even more synths, and then make it all a bit sleepier; the end result being closer to some fairly bad mid-tempo Eurovision submission than anything that resembles my expectations. Certainly, Keldian are one of the tamest bands on the entire archives.

Everything sounds completely sapped of energy. The vocals- capable, but never sounding like they mean it. The drums patter away like someone's playing mallets on a kit made out of pillows, the synths are basically usual bad europower stuff but way louder in the mix (certainly those hoping for some cool space-rockish synths in this album are in for a huge disappointment). Nothing has an edge, nothing has aggression. When the heaviest moment in your metal album is the bad-UT-soundtrack main riff of "Memento Mori" it's generally a sign that you'd be better off playing bad techno and touring with Eiffel 65.

That all said and done, it's the lack of interesting ideas with guitars that make this album as boring as it is- metal is a guitar driven genre, and expecting some good guitar parts are a reasonable request. Keldian have no idea in this area. It's a fair call that they can use a synthesizer extremely well, but every guitar line, every attempted riff throughout is snooze-inducing at best and flat out embarrassing at worst- whether it's a tremendously half-arsed lead (and there's a lot of them!) or possibly the wussiest palm muting man can create, Keldian keep you guessing as to just how they next make a distorted guitar sound less ballsy than a flute.

It probably needs to be mentioned that Keldian can write a tune- it's all rather catchy- but that argument is easily nullified when you consider that Simple Plan could write a catchy song too. There's not much to add here. If you've ever wanted to hear something that makes Gamma Ray sound like Brodequin, I guess this is your best chance. Terrible dross that no one ever needs to listen to.

Stellar! - 100%

thedudeofdudeness, December 24th, 2011

This is an album that transcends the power metal genre, transcends metal, and that transcends existence on this planet Earth. It’s a masterpiece in every way, and a great piece of work. It’s a journey into the farthest reaches of space, spirituality, existence and the future of mankind. This is one hell of a good album by a ridiculously underrated and unrecognized band. It’s a “Journey of Souls” indeed!

As you may have noticed, Norway’s Keldian is listed on the Encyclopedia Metallum as “symphonic power metal”, and also as such on Wikipedia. Whether you like the “symphonic power metal” genre or not, it carries a certain stigma that leads you to the automatic assumption that you’re in for an album of wizards, dragons, swords, huge choirs, 2-minute instrumental tracks with Latin names, dramatic narrations, operatic vocals and an all around huge sound. Bands like Rhapsody come to mind, as well as groups like Dark Moor, Fairyland, and perhaps Pathfinder if you’ve done any digging in the subgenre. The aforementioned bands are typically polarizing in the metal world. What one listener finds epic and beautiful, another may find to be overblown, cheesy and laughable. Here, we have an album that defies the conventions of the “symphonic power metal” subgenre, avoiding all of the pitfalls that has gained for it so much criticism in the past. Simply put, this isn’t like anything done in power metal before. Here, you’ll find none of the hallmarks of the typical symphonic power metal band, lyrically or sonically. The lyrics are science fiction themed, and are quite sophisticated. Instead of simply telling light-hearted tales of adventure, many of the songs are dark and atmospheric. There are choirs on several tracks, but not Rhapsody-style classical sounding choirs. Instead, Keldian makes sparing but highly effective use of choirs to create a mysterious and eerie feel. Truth be known, there isn’t such a large string presence on the album either, and the orchestral parts aren’t all that prominent, taking the back seat while letting the synths drive the atmosphere. There are several extraordinary violin and fiddle solos, courtesy of guest musicians Gunhild Mathea Olaussen and Anne Marit Bergheim (respectively), but that’s the extent of the symphonic element. As a side note, the core of the band is only two guys, Arild Aardalen and Chriester Andresen on vocals, and the rest of the work is performed by guest and session musicians.

Keldian has a primarily synth-based, sci-fi sound. For those of you who disdain keyboard saturated power metal, this isn’t what you think it is. Rather than the flashy, lightspeed solos and happy sounding leads characteristic of bands like Power Quest (who I personally enjoy very much), Keldian brings us spacey, hypnotic, calming and beautiful sonic vibrations that bring a exciting and mysterious atmosphere to the album. The vocals aren’t your typical high-pitched power metal fare. Rather, singer Christer Andresen delivers a mellow, mid-ranged performance that packs some great emotion and fits perfectly into the sound of the band. Nothing on this album, save for the violin and fiddle solos, which are quite well executed, will blow your mind technically. The drums keep the beat and little more, the guitar solos are very tasteful and rather than stealing the attention of the listener pull you further into the atmosphere of the songs. While everybody here is certainly talented and competent to say the least, there aren’t any prodigious displays of skill that will exactly “melt your face” or make your jaw drop. Keldian isn’t about that. They’re about songwriting, and that is something they are most certainly masters at.

For any fan of power metal, it becomes noticeable after a while that many bands aren’t entirely proficient in writing lyrics in the English language. As many power metal artists are Swedes, Finns, Germans and Italians, (thus not speaking English as a first language), they often tend to lack that certain “ear” for what sounds good and what doesn’t, even if their writing isn’t grammatically incorrect (a further issue for many power metal lyrics). While most power metal lyricists are competent enough to get the points of their songs across, the lyrics aren’t always the best. Keldian, however, have completely avoided that pitfall. I would even venture to say that they are the best lyricists I know in the genre. The way they put words together is simple, poetic and brilliant. One of the lyrical high points in “Journey of Souls” comes in “Memento Mori”, which is also the longest song on the album and a totally amazing piece of work. It captures the building tension and fear that comes right before a battle, and is simultaneously peaceful and reflective.

“Standing in line, side by side
All awaiting our doom
The whistle blows
Now the trenches will soon become tombs
No more than men, we are not immortal
No more than them, on the field we are equal”

The compositions are equally impressive. There are no weak tracks on the album, and some of them really grow on you, even if they don’t strike you as great at first. Such was the case with songs like “The Devil in Me” and “God of War”. However, that’s just my own personal experience, and you may very well like them right away. The eerie, pre-chorus choirs in “Lords of Polaris”, the haunting verse in “Reaper”, and the tranquil instrumental breaks in “Vinland” are just some of the magical moments on the album. Every song is amazingly written, and the tunes, even if occasionally pop-rock sounding (for example, the chorus in “The Last Frontier”) are phenomenal and will easily stick in your head. I also feel that it’s necessary to mention the spoken part in “Hyperion”, which is probably the best spoken part I’ve heard in any song.

Every song on the album is absolutely excellent, being flawlessly written and flawlessly played. Keldian has put together a stellar disc (pun intended) right here that is nothing short of excellent. Unfortunately, as of now, it’s not available for digital purchase, so you’ll be stuck ordering it online unless a local record store happens to carry it. “Journey of Souls” is nothing short of excellent, and is highly, highly, highly recommended. I’ll be waiting eagerly for their next album, and I think you will be as well!

Not perfect but very memorable - 82%

wakemeup36, July 2nd, 2010

Norway's not really a country known for it's power metal scene. However, it seems to me that most of the bands from the country are top notch, and this band is no exception. Unlike Ashes to Ashes and Arch Nemesis, two other power metal acts from the country, Keldian doesn't go for a dark atmosphere. But that doesn't mean the atmosphere isn't unique, because it most definitely is.

The guitars are used in a quite few ways. The obligatory power metal riffs are obviously present. Even though these riffs and melodies can sometimes be generic, they manage to have a very unique, futuristic feel most of the time. There are some other uses of the guitar, for example, acoustic sections, a Spanish guitar section and even some medieval esque use is there. The riffs are mostly melodic, but they manage to be quite intense at times. What kinda sucks about the riffs is that on rare occasions they sound exactly what you'd expect in a mainstream rock song, with their oversimplified and ineffective nature. The solos are quite simple ad the guitarist just mixes them into the atmosphere instead of being like 'LOOK! A SOLO!!'

The drums are really powerful and pack quite a punch. The have a nice variation and manage to almost never sound monotonous. Great beats, fills and double bass parts which always suit the specific occasion in question. Sometimes the drums really help the atmosphere by slowing down and mixing in with the rest of the song. The bass is put to good use sometimes, with good, melodic riffs and licks. The keyboards are kind of a mixed bag though. Some really good classical inspired parts and futuristic applications are present, but some melodies are presented in a very awkward way which ruin the momentum of the song, particularly in Vinland. Sometimes the keyboards go for an almost 80s synth feel, which sounds really weird. Although, the atmosphere created by the keyboards is overwhelming at times.

The primary vocalist has clean and simple voice without much of a range, but it really works well for the most part. However, he can sometimes go into a mainstream rock mode, with the angsty chorus of God Of War and the 'masked' vocals contained in Starchildren. There is also a secondary female vocalist who provides some operatic vocals, and then there's a tertiary male operatic vocalist too. Now, these vocalist can help the songs at times, for example in Lords Of Polaris, but they can also bring the quality of the songs down, like in The Devil In Me. The typical 'Haw! Haw! Haw! Haw!' parts (I have no other way to describe them) sound really cheesy and were not needed in the album at all. The production is nice, clear and really good. Perhaps a little too good as the guitars lack a raw punch they could use at times.

Despite all the flaws in the album, it is a very memorable one. The quality kind of drops after the fifth track but it's nothing too drastic. Just when you think 'What happened to the album? It started out great but now...', the band comes in with a great section and redeem themselves. Catchy melodies, good vocals, effective keyboards, powerful drums, decent bass and a brilliant atmosphere make me overlook all the defects and glitches of the album. I'll be listening to this for a long time to come.

Surprisingly pleasant journey. - 90%

XX256, May 24th, 2010

By chance, I actually just stumbled upon Keldian looking for new symphonic power metal bands to listen to in these very archives. I can't believe how lucky this discovery was, since this band instantly became one of the greatest I have ever heard in a very overused genre where it's so easy to be unlikable.

First off, Keldian, from my viewpoint is not a symphonic power metal band. What I define to be a symphonic power metal band is very much based on the staple of that genre - Rhapsody Of Fire and all bands like it. (early Dark Moor, Fairyland, Aquaria and more recently Ancient Bards) Instead, I see this as what Dol Ammad would've been if they had more metal and less "electronica art". The resulting album is the greatest mixture of atmospheric space-like synths and almost pop-ish power metal that I have ever heard.

Almost every single track on this album has hooks that'll subconsciously latch onto you forcing you to remember which parts of each song make it worth listening to the whole way through. Starting with the album opener, "The Last Frontier", you're instantly presented with double-bass drumming and guitar riffs that scream power metal, but on the side are appropriate sublime synths that give such great atmosphere. And then comes the almost battle chant-like chorus where all attention is given to the vocals with the drums providing an intimidating beat, needing only the toms and nothing else. "Lords Of Polaris" has an almost mid-tempo feel overall with riffs not as memorable as the track it precedes, yet still managing to be catchy as hell because of its chorus that at first sounds mellow and sub-par but eventually grows onto you. In "The Ghost Of Icarus", which is probably one of the faster songs on the album, has once again a melodic chorus of its own and fights with The Last Frontier's to be the best one there. Not only is it full of vocals, rapid-fire palm-mutes and double-bass fountains, but after it is the catchiest most addictive synth line I have ever heard in the history of metal. Lyrically, this is also my favorite since the whole protagonist-headed-towards-the-sun fits perfectly with the reference it makes to Icarus.

There are many other great songs on this album like "Vinland" where you'll notice that the very opening of the song already catches you off guard with its male + female vocals and later on a keyboard solo. There's also "Dreamcatcher" which has the same kind of appeal as the chorus of "Lords Of Polaris" but its chorus is definitely better with louder background synths and all-out choir-like vocals. The rest of the songs aren't as noteworthy as what I specifically mentioned, but that's just because I'll sound repetitive since they all have similar elements and atmospheres and of course their own almost poppy yet definitely catchy choruses.

Overall, this album is one of the lightest metal albums I have ever heard, possibly because every single song has this space-like sound and makes it seem like the entire song is...floating, for lack of a better term to describe it. The guitar leads and melodies in general are solid with some in the mentioned songs being much better and more unique than the others. Vocals in general are impressive all around, not needing an insanely high range like in usual power metal to make something sound memorable. Specifically, the use of choir-like backing for the vocals was simply perfect for every song. The drums are completely audible and sound just right without overpowering everything else even with the power metal style beats. The bass is audible and felt enough to provide the low end backing it's supposed to, which not all bands do a great job on too. Taking all those into consideration, this album was produced very well.

In the end, I would recommend this album to anyone who's even just a bit of a fan of power metal. This is because if it's not the power metal that drags you in, it's the pop-like element present in almost every song's chorus as I have repeatedly mentioned making it one of the best reasons why I deem this album as incredible.

Highlights: "The Last Frontier", "The Ghost Of Icarus", "Vinland"