Think about these words for a second. “Remember when we were alive? Neither do I?”
Everyone will have their take on those two sentences, and my personal one will differ from yours, but what we can probably all agree on is that is a couplet to provoke thought, at least.
The fact that it is also the way that Kings Destroy choose to start the title track of their first album in four years is indicative, perhaps, of the fact that they have loftier concerns than most bands. This isn’t the rock n roll of “Talk Dirty To Me” and the like. No one here is mixing up the batter and letting you lick the beater (thanks, Warrant) instead, here, there’s a phenomenal ballad called “Seven Million Drones” which has at its heart the thought that, “there is no finish line…..”
But the key to all this is something away from the lyrics – and believe me, they are superbly poetic – its that the music around them is so brilliantly done to complement them.
This is not too much of a shock, actually because back in 2015 I reviewed their pervious record and suggested: “Kings Destroy” is a real journey for the listener. Frequently rewarding, occasionally challenging, but always of high quality.”
But if that one was good, then this time they’ve stepped everything up a notch. Guitarist Carl Porcaro (who does a wonderful job throughout, but his solo on the aforementioned “…Drones” is soaring) reckons that: “Producer David Bottrill helped us find new creative approaches, and this resulted in an album that doesn’t sound like anything else we’ve ever done.”
Now Bottrill has worked with bands like Tool and King Crimson and there is something a little prog at work here, but the songs, however grand in scope (and they all have big intent) are pretty short. And very sweet.
The opener “The Nightbird” has a bit of a Sabbath thing, to be fair, but there is an air of grunge about it too. It is difficult not to hear the early 90s in the music, frequently, but Kings Destroy do things how they want, not how anyone else does them – which makes them fiendishly hard to categorise, but that’s just fine.
“Barborossa” has echoes of their fellow Brooklyn-ites Life Of Agony and its driving energy, and there’s something just a little unsettling about the harmonies of “Unmake It”, and something of Alice In Chains about “Dead Before”. “You’ve got your head right up your own ass” sings the astonishingly versatile Stephen Murphy here and it sounds like is exasperated more than anything else.
There’s a bit of a throb, a pulse at work on “Yonkers Ceiling Collapse”, which is deceptively catchy, and whilst there is a grandiose flourish about “You’re The Puppet” but it sees Aaron Bumpus’ bass to the fore, while the twin solo as Chris Skowronski and Porcaro mesh perfectly.
“Bleed Down The Sun” has a darker side, one which the closing “Stormy Times” builds upon. “Where do we go from here?” offers Murphy, but no one here knows. And the question is posed to us all.
“Fantasma Nera” isn’t visceral. Rather like the last one, it is a challenging journey, but neither is it inaccessible. For want of a better term it is metal that makes you think – and consider different things each time too. Fantasma? Nah, it is fantastic, that is the only certainty here.