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I'm all smiles - 95%

Empyreal, November 20th, 2022
Written based on this version: 2022, CD, Galactic Butterfly Music

Keldian has long been a sort of niche DIY project in the power metal realm, and all their albums have been worth hearing – there’s just a sense of real passion and care that you don’t get with your big label bands. These guys offer their shit for free on their website, and just do the albums, it seems, because they want to. Which I really like. This new one The Bloodwater Rebellion is something of a departure, as it ditches a lot of the usual power metal elements like speed in favor of a more midtempo rock approach.

But even that sort of sells it short… this is atmospheric, involved rock music that recalls Depeche Mode or something, with a lot of trancey keyboard sounds, ominous, sonorous vocal work, some really dextrous, throbbing bass work. There’s a lot of great hooks on here, and singer Christer Andresen floats over the rest of it like a poltergeist. Andresen does a really exceptional job here, with every note carrying such a gravitas and presence. The production is really excellent and makes all of it sound so enveloping and warm, accentuating everything going on – you can hear the sad, soothing melodicism, the cutting bass, the hard-hitting drums. The keys are exemplary on this, and float over this whole thing like a fine, ethereal mist, a gorgeous soundscape.

There might not be any speed-metal belters on this, but it’s been a tradition for Keldian to sort of do things their own way – they’ve never been a really heavy band anyway, and their stuff has often had such a lightness and airiness to it that it’s almost like the band was trying to separate their shit from the norm, subverting the cliches - like many underground artists, there's just no pandering about it and they do things at their own pace, in their own way. This album is their most different one yet. Power metal is about the speed and the catchiness, but a lot of bands end up figuring out that they can do more varied things with the core of their sound – even if a lot of fans are slow to catch on. I've always thought it's fine if bands vary it up here and there.

Lyrically it is a tale about climate change and dystopia, a wrathful thing evoking a world not too different from our own, where wealth disparity has made everything a great awful unfair chasm. Not happy stuff, but it’s really done with a lot of rage and grit to it. It’s a fuck-you to the system. Vital - it stands on its own.

The songs are pretty much all killer – the opener “The Million Dollar Mile” has an instantly memorable pop hook, “Tundra” is an excellent pensive rumble of a song, “The Lighthouse Burden” is a standout with its soaring melodicism and Andresen’s best performance yet, and closer “Thunderstorm of the Century” is a tremendously climactic piece of work. “Voices of the Dead” has a slightly repetitive chorus, but even that one grows on you.

I really like this thing – it’s one of the best power metal albums in a while and if you like emotional, varied rock music it’s worth a listen in general. And personally I’ll have memories of playing it at the beach in Miami the weekend it came out. As Miami’s going to be an immediate victim of the climate problems the album is about, I guess that’s a resonant thing. Worth hearing if you like good music.