without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
The packaging of the debut demo from Seattle trio Blood of Kings is rather off-putting in the way that it looks like something an alternative group from the 90s might have released. Luckily for us, the old cliche wins out again, as 'don't judge a book by its cover' is quite the moral of the story here. This band is a metallic force, channeling many influences to create a cohesive mix of thrash, speed, and blue collar US power metal. It's grounded in the fundamentals of the aforementioned styles without becoming an anachronism or aspiring to imitate the sound of one particular legend. I hate to milk the old nostalgia cow, but there really aren't enough groups like this anymore, and it's refreshing to know that there's one more band championing the classic heavy metal sound amid a world of numerous European fairy outfits, thrash revivalist clones, and deathcore oven fodder.
At their heart, Blood of Kings thrives with riffs, and there's a hearty feast of them to be had here. The penchant for melody and technical proficiency found in the more traditional guitar parts fondly reminds me of American heavyweights Pharaoh, which can never be a bad thing. However, their hybrid of similar genres more closely resembles the balance struck upon Metal Church's self-titled debut, never quite going with blistering speed while also not settling into the mid-pace. This allows the music and vocals to be versatile and consistently interesting. Extensive stretches of instrumental variation serve to differentiate the song structures, as do a unique duo of vocalists. The more frequent belter bears a gritty but somewhat nasally and high-register voice, while another supplies growled snarls slightly reminiscent of Kreator's Mille Petrozza. All in all, they prove a worthy team, even if I didn't quite find the vocals to live up to the music.
This demo consists of four tracks of considerable length, with each longer than the song before it. They fire right out of the gate with "People of the Light," a simple barnstormer that immediately shows the listener what Blood of Kings is all about: furious NWOBHM spirit with just a bit of thrashy vitriol and a flair for rocking fun. "Force Fed" is easily my favorite offering among the contents, once again giving me Pharaoh vibes with a complex opening riff that I'll have a hard time forgetting. The chorus is to die for, slowing down only to pound another gorgeous guitar melody into the depths of your brain. "Heart for the Land" is a galloping and grinding beast that unexpectedly pulls out some Mercyful Fate stylings after its midpoint. Finishing things off is the seven minute "Derailed," which begins simply enough but builds up in speed and intensity as it goes on, becoming a blistering wave of thrash by its sudden conclusion.
If I have one major complaint, it's that after a half dozen listens or so, some of the vocal lines began to grate on my nerves a bit. This is especially prevalent on side B, when the singing becomes less varied. However, this is really only a minimal flaw in the grand scheme of what I'd consider a great release. Blood of Kings have created a (thankfully) well-produced demo which bears mature and compelling songwriting on their first try, one that would best many of the myriad power/thrash metal bands recording their sixth full length as we speak. It succeeds on both a 'work' (serious) and 'play' (party) level, never stroking its own metallic ego or lowering itself to a goofy, banal joke. I'd easily pay full price for a full-length offering of this quality, which the band is apparently working into forging later this year. For now, submit this tape to a deck near you for a killer afternoon.