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Radioactive Minds: Icelandic Black Metal Duo Kaleikr’s “Heart of Lead”

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For those who prefer their black metal with a dose of psychedelia, options are typically limited and generally hit-or-miss — so many points of balance must be struck to blend extreme music with extreme experience without overblowing or overselling it. Besides, bands who are on-their-sleeves “psychedelic” sometimes ruin the allure/question of how deep musical experience can actually go: any promise of any type of music producing any specific kind of experience is always pure marketing. As far as sharing experiences via music, though, that’s a different story, and always one worth telling.

Heart of Lead, the debut full-length by Icelandic duo Kaleikr, journeys through thickets of head-rushing black metal denser than a neutron star but never prescribes itself, relying instead on invigorating abstraction and postmodern destructuring to free you from your own attention. Even though the sharp edges of aggression and speed can be dampened by over-dispersion, Kaleikr managed to be simultaneously acute (e.g. hyperspeed fury-blasts) and obtuse (e.g. complex, densely layered ambiance) in one cohesive package. Check out an exclusive full stream of Heart of Lead below prior to its Friday release.

Despite the lofty mental elevation granted across Heart of Lead‘s seven tracks, Kaleikr firmly grounds itself in both groove and power. Songs like “Of Unbearable Longing” phase between passages of hooky guitar leads and mini-denoumonts of all-in noise bombardments; this phasing feels wonderfully fluid, too, as if transitions were molten metal and spread as thinly as possible to minimize train-of-thought distraction. And thanks to monstrously thick layering and production aesthetics which demand excessive volume, Heart of Lead‘s emotional wavelengths remain likewise unbroken across their hectic up-and-down journeys. “Neurodelirium” speaks for itself and the album as a whole.

The eye-spinning album artwork by Metastazis illustrates the extreme precision of Kaleikr’s music, but also how that precision embeds itself within the art once you stand back. Heart of Lead‘s technicality is impressive, but never overbearing, or even super-noticeable for that matter, especially after multiple listens help chart the album’s vast sonic territories. Sometimes black metal seems to blossom openly and outward, and sometimes it constricts (causing claustrophobia), but Kaleikr have managed to blend the most impactful elements from both directions in one exceedingly intricate effort. By choking your brain off from itself, Heart of Lead emerges as your new inner soundtrack, setting your mind free to explore vast and unimaginable landscapes beyond regular mental muzak.

Heart of Lead releases Friday via Debemur Morti Productions.

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