Review: KINGS – Never Alone
Written by Brett Kihlmire
Hailing from Brisbane, Australia, Kings is making their debut with Never Alone. A blend of progressive metal and metalcore, these guys are onto something with this unique approach to heavy music.
‘Stand Up’ starts things off real lightly, which I honestly wasn’t expecting. The use of synths and atmospheric guitars really draws me before snarling riffs and the distinct growls of vocalist Lewis Graham kick things up a few notches. The tempo fires up a bit about a midway in with some slick riffs while the melodic guitar dances in the background and that wicked drum beat kicks things going strong. This song has a nice duality to it with the melodic/atmospheric sections and the sheer heaviness of the riffs and Graham’s voice making for one hell of a good start.
‘Stone Cold’ is your straight up metalcore tune. Expect tight riffing, hard beats and slick rhythms behind a harsh vocals, but wait, what’s this? Clean vocals? Why yes! In all seriousness the inclusion of clean vocals are a big standout as it adds another layer to the song and band. Once more the synths return, as do the melodic leads, making for a complex but highly enjoyable song. It’s no wonder this one was the first single.
Starting off hard and heavy, ‘Ocean//Solace’ picks up where ‘Stone Cold’ left off. The riffs are tight as ever, Graham’s vocals are on par and the rhythms hit just right. Honestly, the riffs are the best yet thanks to the rhythm of the guitarist’s picking. And then there’s the clean vocals; once more we get a sprinkle of melodic singing to switch things up, but the transition is always seamless. That’s one place where Kings really hits the spot – blending clean and harsh vocals seamlessly is no easy task, but they nail it here.
Like the name implies, ‘Fight’ is an ass-kicker. Heavy riff, smart breakdowns, mind bending leads and aggressive vocals define this one perfectly. The snarling of Graham’s lyrics is just what you need to really get into this one. The only drawback is that it’s rather short, or so it seems since it’s so very enjoyable – it’s just shy of three minutes.
‘What Flag Are You Flying’ starts off with some cool guitar effects before sliding into the band’s musical sweet spot. At first it seemed like Kings was going to stick to the formula they pull one out of left field with a little more focus on the clean vocals, some perfectly executed breakdowns and a great use of guitar effects. This one may not be a masterpiece, but it keeps things fresh.
If it weren’t for the harsh vocals I would have sworn I was listening to a hard rock tune for the first 30 seconds, because the switch up in guitar tone and rhythm is like nothing Kings has done yet. This one is a real rocker and is seething with metalcore spirit, especially after the first minute. I have to give these boys credit; they know how to keep things interesting.
‘Never//Alone’ is the title track and an interlude of sorts. It’s an instrumental made up of eerie synths and guitar picking. It’s a cool tune and breaks things up nicely. Don’t expect a banger here, but if you dig a nice atmospheric breather here it is.
‘Intentions’ brings thing back to basics and it’s one hell of a banger. Though the guitar has a bit of a pop punk vibe to it, the rest of the band makes up for it with a strong performance. This one is quick, heavy, and has sweet licks thrown in for good measure, and if you listen real closely you can catch the atmospheric synths. Eight tracks in and I’m still impressed!
With a title like ‘Lionheart’ I was expecting a real throwdown track, and while it’s not quite the mosher I was hoping for it’s got enough heaviness and breakdowns to satisfy. The real meat of this one is the chorus. The clean vocals combined with the synths are just beautiful. Of course, the heaviness of this track is undeniable. The fills and blast of double bass thump in your ears in an addicting fashion.
‘Rise Above’ is the ass kicking, no holds barred tune I was expecting with Lionheart. A snarling riff, hard beat and passionate vocal delivery gets my head banging and hard. Once more, the clean vocals break things up, but I felt like they took away from the overall character of the tune. Don’t get me wrong, I really dig the clean vocals, but this album needed that fist to the mouth hardcore tune. But hey, it’s pretty gnarly nonetheless.
Finishing off the album is ‘Saved.’ This one starts off with atmospheric synths before breaking into a clean guitar strum about a minute in. This one is the ballad of the album as it lacks the heaviness and harsh vocals of the rest of the album, but that’s ok. This is one of those straight from the heart type tunes and absolutely brilliant. It goes from easy going to slightly heavy as it slowly builds up its intensity starting with a roll of the drums. The clean vocals show a strength greatly underutilized elsewhere on the album, but why not save the best for last? This is a truly epic tune and an excellent way to end an excellent album.
Never Alone is the debut album from Kings and this was certainly a great debut from these Brisbane-based Aussies. I can honestly say this was one of the best albums I’ve heard so far this year. The amount of polish and dedication to progressive technique put into each song is something I firmly salute. Kings doesn’t write the same song twice and though there is some overlap, it’s too minimal to criticize. This album is equal parts aggressive and melodic. One minute you’re banging your head to punishing riffs and snarling vocals, the next you’re captivated by striking leads and soaring clean vocals. If you dig progressive music and metalcore, then this is one album you have to hear. It’s the best of both worlds. 9/10