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hail to the king baby - 92%

Noktorn, March 12th, 2009

I have to get one thing out of the way before proceeding with this review: King are the first people to my knowledge to come across the retardedly simple and brilliant idea of using 'Diablo''s 'Halls Of The Blind' poem for lyrics. I've had that idea for a ton of years and they beat me to the punch, but my god, my hat's off to them for that one. Granted, now whenever I listen to that track my head is filled with item statistics and the image of dead illusion weavers, but that's my own problem which I won't foist on you.

Much like their idea for those lyrics, King's music is a simple and pretty brilliant setup: combine suicidal black metal with a bit of rock and roll and primitive second wave Norwegian BM to create something that's melodic, atmospheric, and depressive, but with enough motion to keep those who aren't dedicated Beatrik fans interested. The primary influences of this music seem to be Darkthrone, Gallhammer, and a whole host of pseudo-depressive black metal bands, and as patently offensive as the idea of such a mixture is even to me, I have to say it works out well. So well, actually, that I'd prefer to listen to this than about 95% of the other stuff in my musical collection. King is actually a fairly daring band despite the simplicity of their ideas, and this album seems to be a real all-or-nothing bid with them: either the vision was going to come together or it wasn't, with no grey area in between. Fortunately for both of us, it was the former.

A good way to think of this structurally is to take half each of the doomy and blasting portions of your typical black metal band and replace them with uptempo depressive rock portions. This is where the similarity with Gallhammer comes in: King realizes that the way to make the listener feel depressed isn't necessarily by virtue of tempo alone, and moreover, that you can make someone tap their foot while you make them sad (you'd think with the blues being around for so many years, black metal bands would know that). A great example of where King differs from other black metal bands is on the aforementioned 'Halls Of The Blind': there's a section about halfway through where there's a depressive breakdown in the music, a tension-building section with just the occasional crash cymbal and some wafting guitars. Most black metal bands would go immediately into a crawling, doomy section to make you feel bad about yourself: conventional and at this point trite. What does King do? Take the exact riff they would have played if it was going to be slow, filled it with notes, and rock the fuck out with some punky drumming and strummed power chords! It's a simple and elegant maneuver that makes that particular part a thousand times more effective than it would have been if they went the typical way with it.

King has really mastered Gallhammer I-don't-give-a-fuck listlessness and added some more emotion to it, so the music is powerful while still being relaxed and elegant. There's only a handful of blast beats used in the entirety of the album, and equally few ultra-slow doom sections: the album is refreshingly uptempo in general and unafraid to do the unexpected. The rock and punk feel of the music gives it a great deal of charm it would have otherwise missed out on, and the result is an album that's packed to the fucking brim with personality- something a lot of black metal bands lack. A soft and subtle wash of occasional keyboards adds volumes to the music with a gentle additional layer of melody. Other bands would decide to put the keyboard EVERYWHERE just in case you missed it the first twelve times, but King has respect for the listener and makes the songs as they're supposed to be made: simple, catchy, and enjoyable to listen to.

The production on this record is clear but raw with a garage rock feel which perfectly fits the music. The guitars are only half-distorted, which makes for a cool and unique tone without the obsessive black metal buzz of the rest of the scene. Like the rest of the elements of this album, it's unique and refreshing without having to go crazy with its more unusual elements. King's debut is seriously a great album; I can't imagine the sort of release that the black metal scene needs more than this, something which is able to articulate its message clearly and concisely without ever missing a beat. Definitely pick this one up if you can.