Whenever a band can non-ironically cite Angel Witch and Tank as influences, you pretty much know what you’re in for. On their début album Starvation, Seattle trio Blood of Kings plays the sort of proto-thrash that used to be called “speed metal” back in the day. These days we don’t call it anything, because we’re too busy drinking heavily and buying back patches on eBay. Moving right along…
Musically, these guys are a decent cross-section of everything that was awesome in 1980-1985. The rolling double bass attack recalls Motörhead and NWOBHM, while the guitar work is reminiscent of early Megadeth at times (via Diamond Head of course). The band’s vocal approach occupies the middle ground between King Diamond and perhaps Steve Souza from Exodus. It’s not pleasant, and it’s not for everybody, but I gotta admit it fits the overall approach pretty goddamn well.
Opener “Flat Line” sums up the approach nicely, with classic metal riffing layered over galloping drums straight out of 1983. The title track has the kind of sleazy boogie riffs that are nearly a lost art form these days. These elements make up the vast majority of the record, although album closer “Time Has No Mercy” takes the band slightly into the future (perhaps 1989?) with more of a standard thrash feel. At 7 tracks over 43 minutes, the tracks themselves are a bit long-winded. Honestly, the “tracks” thing is kind of irrelevant, it feels more like 43 minutes of riffs, which I’m totally OK with.
I’d also like to commend the band on one very specific aspect of the recording, which is this: during the guitar solos, the rhythm guitars usually drop out, leaving only bass and drums. Yes, just like on the early Van Halen records. Little details like this give the record a “live at rehearsal” feel, and in layman’s terms, it sounds fucking cool. Bands with only one guitarist, take note – that’s how it’s done.
As a side note, this album was mixed and mastered by grunge icon Tad Doyle, of all people. The production is surprisingly good, crystal clear but with just enough grit to keep things feeling authentic. The drums cut through while still sounding real, and the guitar tone has plenty of bite. Sonically, Starvation walks a fine line between modern sheen and old-school grime, with surprisingly effective results.
I don’t know why you’re even still reading this. The minute you saw the word Tank, you already had a pretty good idea of what Blood of Kings is about. The only surprise is that they’re actually good at it. They even got me to break my own “2.0 score for every re-thrash band” rule. Go download this stuff, dub it to cassette, and then listen to it on your Walkman while you roam the streets at night looking for posers to beat up.