The-Wounded-Kings-Visions-in-BonebRest in hazy, gloomy peace, The Wounded Kings. Born some twelve years ago in Devon, a picturesque but often desolate county in southwest England, the band’s similarly contrasting existence came to an abrupt yet peaceful end on August 12th, 2016. A picture of a tombstone, a few words on Facebook, and we we’re left robbed of an illustrious specimen of progressive, psychedelic doom metal, condemned to finding solace in the five praiseworthy full-lengths and several smaller releases they recorded. “Your passing is not what we mourn. But the world you left behind.”

It’s a fitting line by Nick Cave that had attached itself to my mind’s abstraction of Visions in Bone even before hearing about The Wounded Kings’ disbandment. Indeed, there’s much of Cave’s dark, forlorn aesthetic sewn into their mournful but propulsive music. These facets emerge early on, in the form of subtle piano and organ touches during opener “Beast,” an undulating tune that slips in and out of bluesy sections, hard, meaty riffs, and thumping piano chords. An intriguing song for the entirety of its fourteen minutes that reveals all that we’re losing in the form of The Wounded Kings. From the exquisitely nuanced changes in dynamics; drones, grooves, and fuzzy riffs that linger just long enough; the idiosyncratic, almost improvised accents woven around the pleasant, progressive guitar solos and leads to returnee George Birch’s rough yet ethereal effect-laden vocals that heighten the feel of mescaline-induced psychedelia, rumbling and rambling occult phrases.

While the rest of the record never quite reaches the refined medley of moods presented on “Beast,” Visions in Bone continuously demonstrates the quartet’s propensity for merging disparate influences and imprints them into a coherent, appeasing collage. One will identify a smidgen of Cathedral in “Vultures,” the usual Tony Iommi doom riffing will become especially obvious in some of Steve Mill and George Birch’s riffs on the crushing “Kingdom”, and it’s easy to imagine the psyching out on “Vanishing Sea” to be part of a Pink Floyd album. But these elements remain just gentle reminders of a permeating, inescapable familiarity surrounded by genuinely engaging, inspired songwriting. And among these long, well-narrated tunes, each a world by and in itself, there’s a lone banger, the slow crush of “Bleeding Sky” that betrays an unexpected but welcome simplicity.

The Wounded Kings 2016

In hindsight, the band’s usual themes of death, despair, and horror take upon a new layer of meaning and unconsciously projected metaphor. Visions in Bone thus retroactively becomes an unplanned and unwanted swansong showing that we’re quick to assign meaning where there is none. A drift and change is also made obvious in the record’s production and mastering, the musicians taking care of it themselves under the helm of guitarist Steve Mills. This time around, the sound is cleaner and clearer, unhinged of the constraints of fuzzy lo-fi patina that we are so keen to associate with doom metal. And it’s for the better, since this lighter, airier approach makes room for the raw impact of guitars, vocals, Mike Heath’s drums, and Alex Kearney’s bass that speak to the listener unfiltered. All these sounds are lost in a heavy, deserted soundscape, attacking but never destroying, mirroring the intangible symbolism of their notes and lyrics.

Visions in Bone does not carry the burden of frayed relationships or a final effort of a strained and disillusioned band. Instead, it exists as a crown in The Wounded Kings’s discography, showing a mature and comfortable band bridging their various phases. It was made with gusto, no doubt. There’s much to like on this record for doom metal fans, but also for fans of neo-folk, gothic Americana and, possibly, bluesy classic rock. It’s said to best not speak ill of the dead and in the case of The Wounded King, we’ll never have to. This is a band leaving the stage at the top of their game. We can only hope for an encore.


Rating: Very Good!
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Candlelight Records | Spinefarm Records
Websites: woundedkings.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/thewoundedkings
Releases Worldwide: August 26th, 2016

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  • El_Cuervo

    > Devon
    > “desolate”

    I think this is the first time anyone has described Devon as desolate haha. I love Devon and I demand a retraction.

    On a completely unrelated note I have very strong family ties to Devon.

    • AlphaBetaFoxface

      How about quotidian? I only visited twice, and I swear on me mum I saw the exact same people doing the exact same things on the exact same streets both times I visited, two years apart.

      On a note relating to your note, I have very strong romantic ties with Devonshire tea. No idea if it is actually from Devon or not.

      • El_Cuervo

        I imagine it’s the same. But Yorkshire tea is where it’s at.

        Unless you mean cream teas? In which case yes, the South West is very well known for cream teas.

        • Dethjesta

          Yorkshire Tea is pretty good, but I’m a Tetley man.

          • Roquentin

            I’m very satisfied with how this thread is progressing. Please, do continue.

          • sir_c

            Mash’d in ‘t pot?

          • AlphaBetaFoxface

            I’m the Lord of the peasants. PG Tips or go home. That being said, Tetley is damn good when I run out of PG Tips.

    • Dethjesta

      I’m from Wiltshire, Devon is densely populated by comparison. 50% of Wilts is a ‘Tank playground’

      • El_Cuervo

        I live near what some people regard as the home of the British Army. It’s not uncommon for us to hear distant explosions from practices.

        And walking around the forested area that they train in can be alarming as armed men will suddenly run past you or get up out of the bushes as they were camouflaged.

        • toefisch

          Just had a holiday in Devon with my fiance. She lives in Cornwall. Love Southwest England!

      • Samuel Honywill

        Whereabouts in Wiltshire? I’m from Bath, but live over the border in Moonraker country nowadays. And in terms of Devon being desolate, it depends which part of it you’re talking – the southern part of the county is green and lovely, the northern half is bleak and windswept. They’re both fairly awesome (family roots in Plymouth so have spent a lot of time in that part of the world). The West Country being represented on AMG – this is the greatest day ever.

    • Roquentin

      I was sure I’d trigger someone with that. ;-)

      It’s “desolate” in a good way for me. Just a specific sensation and memories of my first, short visit. I quite liked Devon, for what it’s worth.

      • El_Cuervo

        Why were you in Devon, of all places?

        • Roquentin

          It was ages ago, travelling with my parents. We had some family friends in Exeter.

          • El_Cuervo

            Small world eh? Literally the most banal comment ever, but half my family is from down there, from about 20 minutes from Exeter.

  • Oscar Albretsen

    Why no song?/? Want me to “read?” I graduated school like 20 years ago!!! Seriously, though, I checked out a few of their old songs on spotify, and they sound really good. Up and coming doom band hitting their stride! May have to order this bad boy.

    • Roquentin

      They had a song up on YouTube, but they’ve since removed it. I’m not sure what’s the deal with that.

  • AlphaBetaFoxface

    That band picture is about as close to the tag “English Metal” as you could probably get.

    This is also a blatant cue for someone to prove me otherwise.

    • Roquentin

      There are some Paradise Lost band pictures, promo shots for the Draconian Times tour in 2011, that might be even better.

      • AlphaBetaFoxface

        Took a bit of searching, but totally worth it. This is hilarious.

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      I don’t know… to me the right tag for that picture would be “What if Steel Panther were English yokels?”

  • Bas

    Man.. sad they broke up… I saw them live in 2014, with George singing, and giving a very intense and impressive performance. With all the record label problem they recently had this end of the band does not come as a total surprise… I Am going to buy the album! Glad to hear its very good!

  • Adjudant

    Metal…?

    • SegaGenitals

      Soft metal. Like aluminum foil.

      • Jimmy

        Not to sound like a dick guys but I feel like you might not know what “heavy” means in a musical context if you think doom is soft. For example, I love black metal, but it’s more simply about being extreme rather than heavy.

        • SegaGenitals

          We each encounter art through the lens of our own subjective experiences and sense of aesthetics. Agression and emotional weight are certainly different types of heavy. The adjective was not intended pejoratively.

      • Adjudant

        :D

  • Dr. Wvrm

    First Nails, now The Wounded Kings. What’s with bands dipping out after (or before, in this case) releasing good albums this year?

  • Phil Daly

    Sad to hear they’ve called it quits, as they were one of my favourite doom bands of recent years. “Recent” probably meaning “of the last decade”, but then time does tend to slow down listening to this stuff.

    As for Devon being desolate, I totally get that. Whilst not as barren and craggy as Cornwall, there is definitely a bleak beauty to the nature down there that can stir the soul, although not when driving over Exmoor at night in freezing fog…