Czar Behemoth. Kaiser Leviathan. Sister Fluffyheart. These are just three of the names left on the drawing board when King Giant landed on their identity. The cunning subtlety of this name obfuscates great simplicity in their chosen style, drawing on the likes of Kyuss and Down for a Southern-influenced, rollicking doom metal release, entitled Black Ocean Waves. There’s a pleasing air of not giving a fuck here, a record which is hardly innovative but has a drunken grin on its face while kicking your ass.
Far and away the greatest strength here are the guitars – the groove is too real. I get the impression that these guys wrote a book of riffs and orientated every other aspect of their sound around these. Notably excluding the longer closer, most tracks fall in the bite-sized four- to six-minute range, and brim with simplistic but effective leads swaggering their way through the album’s duration. King Giant doesn’t intend to blow you back with innovation and technicality, but the hooky riffs are executed very well. Check “Red Skies” for some of the best material on offer, especially the riffs at 1:54 and 3:58. The shredding solos are usually well-implemented too, such as at 3:08 of “Blood of the Lamb” and 4:00 of “The Gentleman Carny.”
The aforementioned brevity of song lengths ensures Black Ocean Waves is a concise affair, with generally punchy tunes that connect engaging riffs with solos in a direct fashion. Though some songs may open more slowly than others, these guys don’t fuck about and they reach their meat and potatoes quickly with little to no pretence. The more measured closer is structurally logical as a culmination to the record, and is actually one of my favorite tracks. Its opening is comparatively groove-less, preferring melody to rhythm, and the vocals are somewhat emotive compared to the abrasive shouts favored elsewhere. This progression to what is otherwise a tonally and stylistically consistent album is memorable.
However, this segways into a complaint or two. The consistency across Black Ocean Waves can also be described as similarity, where if a song’s leads aren’t as memorable as some of the others, it feels superfluous. “Trail of Thorns” and “Requiem for a Drunkard” fit this bill. In addition, the clean-ish shouts are typically not as good where longer melodic notes are demanded of the vocalist. Though the vocals have grown on me as I’ve listened more, the guitar-work is better both technically and melodically.
I suppose King Giant is really quite appropriate a title for these Virginians. Their sound is meaty and straight-forward, but there’s a self-aware playfulness to their lyrics, a sense they don’t take themselves too sincerely. Black Ocean Waves may not push any musical boundaries or excite me to truly passionate levels, but there’s a smattering of my favorite riffs of the year here, and it’s well worth a listen or several.