In recent years, the Icelandic black metal scene has been flourishing. Bands such as Misþirming, Svartidauði, Sinmara and Almyrkvi (to name just a few) have put Iceland on the map for dissonant metal, straight from the darkest depths of hell.
From the backbone of this scene, a new star is rising: Kaleikr. Evading easy classification, their debut album, “Heart of Lead,” is a swirling nightmare of psychedelic guitar melodies, neck-breaking riffs and proggy rhythms, delivered with emotional intensity and a dense musical concept.
“The whole album is like a journey with ups and downs, but so are the songs in themselves, and even the various sections within the songs,” says vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Maximilian Klimko.
“We want people to come back to the music and experience a new layer of it that they didn’t catch before,” adds Kjartan Harðarson, who completes the duo on the drums. “Our goal was always to make ‘feel music.’”
Both Maximilian and Kjartan had been co-founders of the band Draugsól, which released its critically-acclaimed debut album “Volaða Land” in 2017. Seizing on their musical chemistry, they set out to do something new and different as Kaleikr. “We were basically looking for more professionalism in the music making,” says Kjartan. “We had a vision for a broader spectrum of music. We wanted to explore.”
A sonic concept
The result is an impressive mixture, somewhere between black, progressive, doom and death metal. “The themes come from the music,” says Maximilian. “The lyrics were formed from the inspiration that came from the music itself; the mood that it gives.”
The songs are technically demanding to play, and they also take their toll emotionally. “I would say if you listen to this album twice in a row, then you have some mental strength,” Maximilian chuckles. “I’ve had people tell me there’s so much in it that they get mental fatigue from listening to it. And that’s funny: because that’s the theme of the album.”
Checking the boxes
Kaleikr recorded “Heart of Lead” at Studio Emissary with producer Stephen Lockhart. It was one of the goals they set themselves at the very beginning. Another goal was to get renowned graphic design studio Metastazis—which has also done work for Alcest, Lamb of God and Sólstafir—to create their album artwork.
“The last thing we needed was a label,” Maximilian recalls. “That just magically fell into our laps through our connection with Stephen. It was insane. We feel really lucky, even though it was also a lot of work.” After recording the album, the band was signed by Debemur Morti Productions, which represents bands such as Blut aus Nord and Archgoat.
Kaleikr will make their live debut at Ascension Festival in June this year with a full live band. Three years in the making, “Heart of Lead” will be released on February 15th, which would make it a perfect Valentine’s Day gift. Right?
“It has the right colours, and there is a big heart on the cover,” Kjartan sniggers. Adds Maximilian: “You can hide it in a flower bouquet. I don’t know what kind of message you’d be sending to give this to someone on Valentine’s Day, though. It’s called “Heart of Lead.” You’re heavy, you’re a burden, and you’re poisoning… here you go. Happy Valentine’s Day.”
Kaleikr’s debut album “Heart of Lead” will be released on February 15th. Preorder the album on their Bandcamp.