Before you say anything, I did grab this promo because I saw the band name was King. Yes, perhaps I have a “King” and King Diamond related problem but, between that and the “black metal” label, I had to snatch up this promo right away. And, oh lordy, am I glad I did. It may not be RotY material, but the debut from this Australian trio is fucking good. The best way to describe King is by taking Amon Amarth, Onheil, and Gormathon, and blackening them with the likes of Dissection and Satyricon. The result is a melodic death sound tinged with black-metal riffage and Satyr-meets-Jon Nödtveidt vocals. But, before I get accused of excessive name-dropping and shameless click-baiting, it’s time to Reclaim the Darkness.
As the disc begins to spin, you enter a world of gusty frozen wind. Images of “Winter is Coming” memes flash before your eyes at lightning speed. The wind eventually subsides, but David Hill’s captivating acoustic guitars keep the chill alive. And then you remember King hails from Australia, and your cold, frigid thoughts turn to ones of isolation and barrenness. Which adds to the mood set by the almost Horna-like melodic plod. But the real power of King is yet to come. Once the song picks up steam, the band lets loose a simplistic, punchy Swedish melodic-death riff. And finally, sweeping guitar leads, convincing rasps, and a backing chorus draw it all together for a climactic finish. The mood is set and my blood is up, but it only gets better from here.
After opening with some Onheil-ish clean guitars, the title track transitions into a massive, head-banger straight from the halls of Amon Amarth. It’s simplicity and almost Viking-like character makes it difficult to stamp a “black metal” tag on it just yet. The follow-up track, “All in Black,” delivers in a similar way, but its appropriate title puts the black in “Black.” The riffage has similarities to the death-metal direction of the title track, but the pissed-off, black-metal interlude has a serious Satyricon vibe and many of the riffs are downright thrashy.
From here, the album slows just a tad; chalking up more melodic, methodical epics. Of the lengthier tracks, “My Destination the Stars” and closer “One World One King” are the best. “My Destination the Stars” is chock-full of everything King has to offer. This time, the Amon Amarthian riffs have a heavy blanket of melody drawn over them and a clean-guitar beauty that warms from underneath. And though the drumming has been good up to now, David Haley’s (ex-Pestilence) drum work begins to create a presence (even more so on “Winter Sons” and “Black North”). And then there is “One World One King”—perhaps even more epic and effective than “My Destination.” This time, though, the aggression comes to the front and the screaming chorus punches out those four words like a fire-spitting cannonade. The drums, the riffs, the builds—this complete package is the epic closer the album needed.
Of the remaining tracks, “Winter Sons” and “Black North” are my favorites. The emotional chorus of “Winter Sons” reminds me of the melodic ballads of Amon Amarth, while “Black North” uses its Hypocrisy chorus to get its point across. And, like most tracks on the album, we’re rewarded with slick interludes and kickass breakdowns to keep us hooked. The breakdown on “Winter Sons” is the highlight of the song. A thrashing, neck-cracking build that sets up the end of the song and lights my blood on fire. Not to be outshone, “Black North” follows with a nifty military-styled drum roll in full support of its marching character.
As for the production, it’s stripped-down and reminds me of the clean, crisp feel of Dissection‘s Reinkaos. The instrumentation has a good balance and the guitar and drum performances are top-notch. Reclaim the Darkness is a perfect example of an album that requires full dynamics to be completely understood. The landscape is so rich from beginning to end that it’s a shame that the compression is so high. Regardless of these mastering issues and the typical-ness of “Night Sky Abyss” and “The Journey Begins,” this a fantastic debut. One that will leave me in anticipation for their sophomore outing.