|Avant-Garde, Black Metal, Punk
Release length: 47:14
Kingslayer starts off by reasserting the band’s Black Metal influence during “Dungeons Deep and Caverns Dim.” The introduction of cleaner chords with an icy touch hold a bit of a Folk atmosphere suited to that of running water before caving to some two-step Thrash Metal influence with charging riffs to make up the bridges leading to a sharper version of what started the track off foe the chorus. While the raspy vocals sound great, even a bit richer compared to the previous effort, the clean singing remains the same if not a bit louder. If you had an issue with this in the past, prepare to hear more of it as it does crop up quite often. But by the three minute mark, things do shift a bit. The pace slows from time to time, the guitars playing at a slightly faster tempo than the drums in some spots, even the music itself takes on more of a melancholic touch after the faster traditional Heavy Metal-esque guitar solo near the four minute mark. There’s even a Space Rock effect utilized and the song drones on, giving it an incredibly odd artistic, if not snobbish free-form hipster eeriness that is so different from what one might normally hear that it will actually chill you to the bone the first time you hear that minute long experience, throwing you off for the solid return to the main verse into chorus structure once more to wrap things up.
“Elric” starts off with riffs that sound like they are torn from a prom in the sixties, but the effects used make them sound simply vile. Sadly what follows sounds terribly off. The drums carry a consistent slower pace, but the guitars seem to be a second or two behind. Even when you reach the final bar of the passage at about a minute in you can hear what seems like a quick edit to try and line things up again. This odd clash isn’t limited to just the start, but the rest of the trudging music seems to flow a lot better and lacks any sudden jumps like mentioned earlier, even when going into and exiting the furiously tight guitar solo. “Kingslayer” is a little more restrained overall. The main verses are pretty hectic with a heavy dose of Thrash Metal thrown in, but some areas have a mid-tempo pace that screams fantastical themes of lords and ladies with a matching atmosphere and guitar solo. It’s not one of Norselaw‘s more unique tracks, but it’s still an engrossing extended performance that rounds out the five minute plus performances well.
While those three tracks do sum up much of what you will experience on Kingslayer, there’s still plenty more to discover. “Ice Palace” finds the bass playing an important role against the catchy drum rhythm and additional keyboards have when it comes to pushing the seventies Rock groove that makes up the bulk of the track. The rest, however, ends up a cluttered mess of Mercyful Fate grade Heavy Metal and tight paced aggression meant to build the tension prior to it and a conclusion that sounds like the leads from “Alice in Hell” by Annihilator. “Dragon Rising” has a very dark and twisted presence all around, especially with the distorted bell ringing effects that hit before the catchy Jimmy Hendrix-esque bass groove for the chorus. And then there’s “Over and On” which finds a really low buzzing in the verses with a very upbeat Progressive tone that matches the harsher vocals and softer falsettos, leading to a truly infectious Hard Rock laced Heavy Metal chorus and technical solo at the three minute mark.
For the most part, the album’s flaws really lie within some of the production choices. Compared to the previous outing, the guitars definitely sound richer, which is a major plus to this experience that accentuates the distortions typically required for the style that is incorporated at that time. However there does seem to be some washout on the louder cymbals that is hard to ignore on some tracks, especially at the start of the album. It takes a few spins to finally get past them, eventually oddly suiting the sharper, yet still clearly analog output. But then there’s the odd choice in layering. While the clean vocals have obviously never really been intended to hit on key with every attempt, a little touch that suits the outcome that is Norselaw, hearing it as if two voices in two separate pitches that are still off can be a little rough no matter how you look at it. This is abruptly heard mostly during the chorus of the aggressive Black Metal cut “Cimmerian,” as well as the chorus to “Blitzkrieg Skies” where the singing is pretty much drowned out by the loud crash of the cymbals.
One final aspect of this album worth touching on is the darker social themes. While Serpent in the Circling Sea wasn’t one hundred percent the definition of fantasy and horrific concepts or mythologies, they still fit the mold well enough. Kingslayer finds Norselaw treading more into reality through these topics by including concepts like corruption, police states and more to create a far more dystopian undertone that doesn’t necessarily present itself from a casual listen. It also doesn’t help that if you look at Norselaw’s Facebook page you will see plenty of links related to that sort of government-related discussion, so it was only a matter of time this influence made its way into one of his albums.
Kingslayer is far from the near-masterpiece that Serpent in the Circling Sea was, but it still has a great deal of character behind it. Not only does it show that this is a project that can easily thrive on extended tracks and keep them diverse or simple enough to have you sticking around attentively, but it shakes up the formula a bit to try out new things such as the possible Jimi Hendrix influence mentioned earlier, a hint of abrasive sixties Pop, as well as throwing in some underlying government corruption and police state themes among the traditional fantasy/medieval themes. This isn’t some kind of Metal rubiks cube you need to solve before you latch on, but rather a generally matured explosion that still fits comfortably into the social tensions of today through the mind of legend himself. If you enjoyed Norselaw‘s previous efforts you’ll still find plenty to rave about on here.
01. Dungeons Deep and Caverns Dim – 6:56
02. Elric – 5:35
03. Kingslayer – 5:00
04. Over and On – 4:34
05. Cimmerian – 4:14
06. Behind Stars Under Hills – 3:32
07. Ice Palace – 4:33
08. Dragon Rising – 4:25
09. Blitzkrieg Skies – 4:05
10. Sailor on the Seas of Fate – 4:22
|Initial Pressing Score: 8/10