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Promo '19 - 90%

JackOfAllBlades, May 22nd, 2020
Written based on this version: 2019, Digital, Independent

It's apparent from the first seconds of this short demo that Fog Kingdom, unlike many of their contemporaries, are not afraid of major chords. The rawness is there, sure, as are the shrieked vocals and washes of trebly guitars, but the tunefulness and frankly unchallenging chord progressions are a welcome change of pace, even in spite of my usual gravitation toward somewhat traditional black metal.

The simplistically beautiful (and simplistically titled) "Intro" is replete with this major tonality, lending the tune an air of ancient majesty - something more suitable for visions of a glorious, forgotten kingdom than of the dank dungeons more familiar to underground black metal. This wistful melancholy pervades the metal tracks as well, introducing unabashedly melodious and often folk-inspired leads that imbue the genre's expected sorrow with a grandeur it is too seldom afforded.

This consistency is particularly notable considering that the band's members are a continent apart. Some of black metal's - hell, some of music's - greatest moments owe some of their greatness to the idea of the band members crouched in some dark basement crafting their art, the distinct members subsumed into the collective whole. It takes a special band to develop that same singularity of focus without so much as seeing their co-creators face-to-face.

Granted, some of this international distance does seem to rear its head here and there - "Blood of a Tyrant", the first of the two metal tracks, suffers occasionally from some less-than-ideal compositional choices. The transitions between sections could be smoother, and the barebones, quarter-note ending is somewhat underwhelming four minutes deep into the otherwise grandiose track. In fact, the few other weak points that crop up (like a weak-sounding drum machine or the odd, overly-guitar-centered mixing) could best be described as 'underwhelming' - it's not that they're unforgivable errors, they just aren't up to snuff with the quality standard the short tape sets for itself.

Setting the bar too high is rarely a debut demo tape's worst offense, though, so I couldn't hold it against the band. Promo '19 is, at its very worst, the sound of a promising young band simply missing the mark on one issue out of many. No doubt these minor gripes will be remedied, or at least on their way there, by the time Fog Kingdom releases more music - and when they do, I'll be glad to return to the kingdom.