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Music better than the image (not hard!) - 59%

Steelbound, May 15th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, Digital, Intono Records

Grailknights is a band that I disregarded for all 14 years of their existence, which is mostly due to their ridiculous image and outfits. And that’s not because I hate fun (my favorite genre is power metal, go figure) but because I detest forced images constraining bands’ musical style and development, exempli gratia Alestorm, their power metal counterpart Gloryhammer and recently German power metal outfit Victorius‘s demise into Gloryhammer platitudes. I just don’t expect these bands to deliver genuine music, and in the case of the ensembles given above this stereotyped thinking worked out for me. Alestorm are just a money-making factory centered around getting shit-faced and their music has been suffering of this since the second decade of the 2000s. Due to all those all show no substance bands, Knightfall is the first album of Germany’s Grailknights I consume. The band calls it superhero metal. Arrggghh, the nemesis.

It seems as though Grailknights experienced a makeover around 2011 when all band members were replaced except for singer/guitarist Sir Optimus Prime (sigh). I’ve read reviews saying their subsequent 2014 output Calling The Choir was one of their best, but I’ve seen more people complaining about the loss of bassist Mac Death who supplied high quality death grunts; as well as complaining about a general decline in musical quality and variety. Grailknights, despite their image, started out as a melodic death metal band but there is no trace left of this on Knightfall. The music sounds like what you’d expect from the band photos.

Thusly, the Germans have employed Sabaton‘s Joakim Brodén for a vocal part on the album’s opening track and single “Pumping Iron Power”. The combo clearly studied Sabaton‘s successful, albeit generic power metal formula and follows it closely with this track, as well as the rest of the album. Due to the prevalent keyboards/synths the track lacks the power of a Sabaton song, even though the Swedes themselves have been lacking power on their latest output. The production takes up half the baton in this absence of ass-kicking as the guitars and drums are really soft and don’t, well, kick at all. Slightly disappointing as this could have been a real banger in the style of Sabaton singles. I am an advocator of more dynamic productions, but I can see when a production needs compression for a certain punch – this one does.

Alright, “Pumping Iron Power” is as ridiculous as I expected from the troupe’s image and doesn’t impress me personally. Probably a fun live track or for working out, but much like Alestorm‘s music, there is not much to be had if you want to listen to this to just enjoy the compositions. Surprisingly, as I have to admit, the album delivers more varied tracks than this one. To stress the Sabaton comparison again, Grailknights have a certain musical identity as well (which happens to sound much like Sabaton), but manage to compose some sweet tunes within those confinements.

We still get the occasional death grunts, as heard on the eerie “Grailskull Asylum”, which is one of the examples where the band escapes the generic power metal constraints. Other tracks deliver on variety as well, “March Of The Skeletons” being a fun Tim Burton soundtrack sounding chime, but mostly the band succumbs to verse-chorus-verse-chorus-solo-chorus power metal clichés. Knightfall couldn’t be more average than it is in this regard. I do enjoy power metal, but the repetition of the formula is something that we heard since the beginning of the millennium and can’t be praised.

Therefore Grailknights provide another power metal album that lives on big, catchy choruses and fun melodies. The band certainly delivers on those aspects, once you listened to Knightfall those refrains will be stuck in your head for minutes, until you listen to something else. Twilight Force schooled all generic power metal bands in 2016 how a diverse album of the genre has to sound, but Grailknights did not attend. Instead, they exercise the ole melodic power metal muscle to death. If you’re in for a catchy, entertaining and diverting ride, Knightfall is an album for you, but don’t expect to be listening to this more than two times in a row. It’s fun power metal fast food! I enjoy eating at McDonald’s, but I wouldn’t do it every day. Or…?

Written for www.metalpower.blog