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DMP Vault - Part X, "Heart of Lead"

DMP Vault - Part X, "Heart of Lead"

The tenth Vault entry examines recent history, the 2019 debut release from Icelandic progressive Black/Death Metal duo KALEIKR, the project of ex-DRAUGSÓL drummer Kjartan Harðarson and guitarist Maximilian Klimko. "Heart of Lead" is a 48-minute journey into a troubled mind; from sadness, through despair, towards an ending of total mental collapse. It is a meaningful and gripping 7-part exploration of fear, unrest and pain.

The album commences at a steady pace, first track 'Beheld at Sunrise' laying the groundwork and filling the room with tension as the downward spiral begins. The slow but steady buildup creates a deep, intense and claustrophobic atmosphere. The emotional intensity and range only expand over the album's duration. As the mental burden increases so does the sound's intensity and depth. Hope has abandoned this place.

Every instrument is given room to breathe and stand out over the album's duration. The duo employ a stunning sense of control; as riffage, tempo variations and transitions all flow without any disruption to the captivating atmosphere. Klimko's vocal delivery continuously strengthens the album's grip, his anguished roars a strong adhesive holding together each facet of the inner battles represented here.

The cohesive lyrical scenarios portrayed throughout "Heart of Lead" impart dealings with ever-changing states of profound psychological pain. This relatable theme makes the listening experience quite individual and unique to many. If not in the correct head-space, "Heart of Lead" could prove difficult to process, the album's heavy complexities reflecting a journey to psychological breakdown.

Production duties were handled by Stephen Lockhart at his Studio Emissary in Iceland. An individual that is no stranger to the Vault, Lockhart showcases his mastery of atmosphere by harmoniously merging a barrage of intricate ideas, arrangements and dynamics into one unified entity.

The Reykjavík duo seriously impresses with their ability to present such deep and elaborate themes in a way that feels real. Taking such creative risks with structures, themes and sound on their debut album was truly awe-inspiring. It is heartening to know the future for KALEIKR seems bright and the best may be yet to come.

Listen to the album here:

The two artists behind KALEIKR, Kjartan and Maximilian, share some insights about their debut album:

Q: Hello Kjartan, hello Maximilian! Thank you for giving me your valuable time! If you go back to when the album was composed and conceived, what is the first thing that comes to mind? What is the strongest memory you have of these seven songs?

K: The first thing that comes to mind is honestly just how aimless it was and how long it took to craft the album. We spent endless hours jamming out material without knowing what we really wanted to make. We did very long practice sessions where we just played what came to mind and recorded all of it. We hardly spoke during those sessions. It really felt like creativity in its purest form.

Q: Three songs on "Heart of Lead" featured the viola, played by Árni Bergur, well-known from his band ÁRSTÍÐIR LÍFSINS. Can you remember when you had the idea and knew for sure that you wanted to include a viola in your sound?

K: I am not sure when the idea of a viola popped up exactly but it's interesting looking back at these decisions we took. In the beginning, the whole idea for the band was to feature a very raw sound of only drums, guitars and vocals. With time, the songs started to grow beyond our initial vision and we started playing with the idea of adding additional instruments. We felt that some of the songs just demanded those extra elements.

M: Árni was a friend at the time and we were aware of his skills outside of traditional Metal instruments. It was a natural decision really, and as we were all eager to collaborate there was nothing standing in the way.

Q: I remember an older interview in which you mentioned that crafting "Heart of Lead" was not an easy task, also that the lyrics dealt with very personal subjects and were an exploration of fear, unrest and pain. When you listen to this album today, is it "painful" to listen to these emotions?

M: Listening to it still elicits an emotional response, that's for sure. But as time has passed, the emotions associated with the record are more like something I observe and feel in passing, rather than something all-consuming like they were back then.

Q: Last I heard, Maximilian was in Jazz school to further deepen his understanding of musical theory. Did this have a big effect on the new songs we are going to hear?

M: True, I attended Iceland's FÍH for a full year in 2018. It drastically changed my perspective on writing, but especially playing music and the effects of this will undeniably be heard on the following material.

Q: This February you wrote on Facebook that the drum recordings for the new album were officially wrapped up. What is the status of the second full-length?

K: Drums are indeed wrapped up and we're in the midst of guitar tracking. The progress on finishing this album has been slower than we hoped for but we're very confident about the material itself.

Posted on 05-10-2024 | Category: Kaleikr