KEISER – The Succubus
Keiser will always remind me of an inside anecdote. When I saw an interview with the band by Rune Grande himself in Norwegian I naturally had it google translated. As I read it I noticed that Rune appeared to have accidentally called them Emperor instead of Keiser. When I raised the issue, Rune kindly informed me that "Keiser" meant "Emperor" in Norwegian which is what my google translator took under consideration while I didn’t.
Keiser are a somewhat progressive black/death metal band. Picture Hypocrisy Abducted/Final Chapter Hypocrisy with folky Opethian mood, early Emperor, Enslaved and Glorior Beli, a touch of Slayeresque thrash, early In Flamesian acoustics and lots of Iron Maiden/Black Sabbath references. Then again, saying any metal band sounds like Black Sabbath is an exercise in redundancy, as Ice-T said Black Sabbath pretty much invented metal. The core of Keiser remains black metal and the songwriting is largely kept in that fashion such as on the brutal "White Shadows" or "Pandemic Herb" but the band has a serious progressive slant on the central masterpiece "The Succubus" that recalls the most convoluted work of Mastodon or Enslaved in the way that the moods and movements within the song are masterfully and seamlessly put together, the songs themselves flowing into each other in a "Countdown to Extinction"/"Vulgar Display of Power" fashion greatly enabled by the competent production that emphasizes every detail. Indeed, this progressive edge stacked against the pure black metal assault makes Keiser sound like almost like two different bands altogether. While Opeth invented the Dr Jekkyl/Mr. Hyde approach to extreme metal (an approach somewhat emulated by Keiser), Keiser additionally sounds like they have two identities fighting within their framework but displayed on separate songs which plays actually to their favor. Sure, the vocal rasps tend to get tedious already on the 4th track but you can’t deny the wonderful Borknagarian melodicism of "The Malevolent", the first track proper, the structure already betraying the progressive tendencies fully showcased on the second side of the disc.
Interestingly, Keiser’s take on black metal has actually a lot to do with speed metal before it morphs into a tribal epic acoustic beauty. The aforementioned track, the excellent "Into the Abyss" (my favorite) and the title track are the best pieces on "The Succubus". Some songs work great while others seem out of place and weird, experimental, such as "Eye of Syphillis", this being their debut, it’s easily forgiven.
At the time where only Enslaved is putting out consistent mindblowing material while Emperor is merely remembered through their past and the varying quality of Ihsahn’s solo work Keiser is a welcome fresh addition to the fold. I will be paying close attention to these guys as the potential is great, indeed. The material is already varied, melodic and showcasing considerable talent but let the passing time and experience play to their strengths on the follow-up(s) much the same way we observed it on the works of Opeth or Emperor.
Which brings me to the punch line of the earlier anecdote, working in reverse of the way it was lived. Years ago I was assigned writing a sequel to Henrik Ibsen’s classic play "A Dolls’s House" in college English 151 class. My professor was curious why my Torvald Helmer, himself a Norwegian man spoke…German. The answer was not apparent to me then but became blatantly obvious only a few weeks ago: because I don’t speak Norwegian.