King Hitter_King HitterI’m sure many of you have a big soft spot for C.O.C.‘s Blind album, and in that regard, I’m no different. It’s become a genre classic and been showered with endless accolades since it’s release almost 25 years ago (that metal is olde!). A big part of the album’s appeal for me is Karl Agell’s gritty, tough-as-nails vocal performance. He was by far the best vocalist C.O.C. ever had and it’s a perpetual bummer he recorded but one album with the quasi-iconic band. Since his departure way back in 1993, Karl toiled in several minor bands, most notably, southern rock/stoner act Leadfoot, but for the most part he remained below the radar and out of sight of the metal world. After such a long absence, it was quite the happy surprise to get a promo from his new project, the awfully titled King Hitter. Their self titled debut EP isn’t a reboot of his Blind days, focusing instead on a punchy amalgam of hard rock, metal, alternative rock and yes, even a bit of nu-metal (gasp!). Remain calm, all is well!

The band’s eponymous track comes out the gate hard with big burly riffing right off an Orange Goblin or Fireball Ministry album and Karl’s voice provides maximum muscle, spit and grit. It’s a barroom-ready power anthem walking the line between aggressive stoner metal and straight-up metal, and it’s very immediate and accessible without sacrificing heaviness (although it reminds Madam X of The Offspring at points). “Drone Again” is a bit harder to pigeonhole, borrowing a page from C.O.C. but also incorporating riffs that remind me of Disturbed and even Alter Bridge. It works because the band knows how to sell it, and Karl owns it completely, sounding sincere as hell. The best moments come during “The End” which rocks the same southern swagger as Floodgate and  Down and could easily have appeared on any of the latter’s albums (and most of C.O.C.‘s as well). It’s the closest they get to a Blind revival and triggers even more chronic bummation that Agell and C.O.C. parted ways so soon.

The remainder of the EP is solid, but less impressive, with “Feel No Pain” being an aggressive up-tempo rocker relying on the vocals to carry the action. It’s enjoyable but a little nondescript. The awesomely titled “Suicide (is the Retirement Plan)” has an interestingly rugged mid-paced grind with moments that feel like Foo Fighters trying a Pantera ballad, but it’s missing something that would make it stick.

King Hitter 2015a

The big take away from this teaser EP is that Karl sounds great. His powerful, raspy baritone is as good as I remember it and maybe a bit better. It seems he hasn’t lost a step and age has made his voice even more distinctive and sometimes he even has a Blaze Bayley sound to his delivery. He’s joined by Leadfoot band mate Scott Little who plays a mean southern rock guitar, and along with Mike Brown they deliver some surprisingly heavy riffs along with bluesy, sassy solos. The band is tight and they successfully blur the lines between genres, making King Hitter just enough of an enigma to confound expectations. That only deserves props in this day and age.

I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect here, but no matter how different his new material may be, it’s great to hear Karl singing again and King Hitter seems a suitably flexible vehicle for him to try his hand back in the metal world. He certainly sounds fired up on here, and that’s a helluva good start in my book. Now get us a big, fat full-length, stat!

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Restricted Release Records/Plastic Head Music
Release Dates: Out Worldwide 03.24.2015

  • Grymm

    As someone who worships Blind as if it’s all of the sun gods rolled into one, I need to check this out.

    Also, WELCOME BACK, KARL!!! m/

    • DrChocolate

      This was my exact thought. I think Blind is as good as metal got in the ’90’s and stands shoulder to shoulder with any of the other legendary releases of that decade. Definitely going to check this out, I have hard time not seeing/reading the band name as King Hitler though…..

      Aside from that, was that a fucking *Floodgate* reference in this post?!?! High School me just sat up and shouted “Somebody else has heard of Floodgate!” I own that record and don’t think I’ve listened to it in nearly 17-18 years – now I want to dig it out and feel like an awkward teenager all over again. That’s some time capsule shock right there.

      • I love that Floodgate album. Always hoped Kyle Thomas would resurrect the band someday.

        • DrChocolate

          I’m listening to it right now and I’m a little shocked at how well it’s aged. It’s definitely much better than I remember it being (probably related to my tastes evolving in the last two decades) – three cheers to uncovering hidden gems in my own collection.

    • BOOM. Karl is back. Yes. Blind was the best of the best for COC.

  • lennymccall

    Blind was great but Pepper is by far their best singer…come on.

    • No way, man.

      • Monsterth Goatom

        Of the great clean male voices in the metal world, I’d pick Todd Michael Hall for the high range, Karl for the middle range, and for the low range, not sure. Find a good bass singer, stick them in a studio together and hey, presto! Three amigos to take on the legacy of the three tenors.

      • Carniverous Ruminant

        You are wrong, Druhm. So very wrong.

    • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

      Hesitant to call Pepper CoC’s best singer, but he does sing on the best album, which is In the Arms of God.

    • Sorry, No.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Blind what great record!
    Nice review Druhm, has me all nostalgic for a mix tape I had (back in the day) that got a lot of play. It had an excellent selection of tunes from TSOL, COC(Blind), Suicidals’, Garage Days Revisited and a couple from Exodus’s fabulous disaster…I know what Im doing tomorrow :).
    Tho I haven’t really followed COC since Blind and some aspects of your review concern me… I dig the embedded track and will pick this up on band camp when its released…nice art for this too.

    • It’s a good listen. Not earth shaking, but points to good things in the future.

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        Can’t go too wrong for $4 :)

  • Excentric_1307

    Maybe I’m trading in some of my Angry Metal Cred™ but I have no idea what C.O.C. stands for.

    • Monsterth Goatom

      Corrosion of Conformity? I really have no idea either, but that comes to mind.

      • Yes, Corrosion of Conformity! 3 day site ban for both you for the crime of poserdom!

        • Excentric_1307

          I didn’t need this site anyway! (tries to flip desk, weak poser arms give out instead)

        • Monsterth Goatom

          My first guess was Cats on Crack, but I haven’t heard anything from them since Litter Fire back in ’86.

          • Grymm

            Their comeback record, 2003’s “Live from the Sofa”, could have used a better production.

        • Monsterth Goatom

          1 day ban on you for starting a sentence with a numeral you, you writer you!

  • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

    Wow. Agell’s voice sounds totally different and weird on this. Still decent stuff though.

    • He sounds more like the old times on other songs, especially on “The End.”

  • Doomdeathrosh

    King Karl is back! and that is one helluv-an album cover!

  • Tentacles

    Wow…Blind was one of the soundtracks to my early teenage years. Me, a skateboard and ‘Vote with a Bullet’ playing through a cheap Sony Walkman. Good times.

    And you are right. Mr Agell still sounds awesome. I could definitely listen to more of this.

  • dblbass23

    I missed this guy’s time in COC….and just never went back and checked it out. But I’m really into Pepper’s additions to the band. Anyway…..

  • Luke_22

    This sounds pretty cool. Haven’t really kept up with his career post-Blind but keen to hear the rest of this and hopefully a full-length will follow soon.