When I first read about this project/band I was really, really excited. Based on the sheer power of the members I had already slated it as a contender for a top album of the year, without even hearing a note. Fefolt’s voice is pure metal, Rhino is the best drummer Manowar ever had, we all know about Ellefson and throw in a new young guitar hero in the form of Ethan Brosh…pure magic.
Well, the album was not what I expected. I was perhaps expecting something a bit more straight-ahead, more rampaging, more powerful. After the initial mild shock the strength of the songs and music have replaced my initial incorrect suppositions with something equally good or perhaps better.
This came out earlier in the year on Metal Heaven and again later on Burnhill domestically in the USA. There are two album covers and this US version has three tracks that are not on the European pressing. 13 songs spread across an hour with good production work. The presentation could use some work, no lyrics, no song-writing credits and pretty plain packaging make for a dull initial visual impression.
As stated earlier my surprise was the diversity on this album. The songs are very, very strong, catchy, well-written, interesting to listen to in a pure metal vein. Next surprise not as much drumming as one might expect from Rhino. He produced the whole project and seems to be the de-facto leader, which is even more interesting to hear fiddle, keyboards, piano, female vocals and all sorts of different arrangements. These musical features and sounds are not heavily emphasized by any means but just added for extra spice to already solid song-writing. The arrangements have given the songs room to breathe and there is an enormous amount of atmosphere developed into these excellent compositions.
This album takes me to a time of classic, pure traditional metal, before the countless sub-genres and over-analysis of trends. KINGDOM OF EVIL can stand proud next to the likes of Dio’s DREAM EVIL, Fifth Angel’s TIME WILL TELL, the first half dozen Chastain albums and everything Axel Rudi Pell has ever done! It has that timeless quality, never frantic, not overly-ambitious, not too many modern tricks, just great song-writing and classy style delivered by these metal veterans.
Almost every song on this is a winner. ‘Tarot’ is the most catchy chorus for a slower song, I’ve heard in a long time. A very unique and innovative vocal line that sticks in my brain! The lead-off track ‘Conspiracy Theory’ and the albums title track ‘Kingdom of Evil’ bring the power of metal to the table as does Apocalypse 2012. Right now, Ronnie James Dio is in metal heaven cranking track three, ‘Night Magic’ with a smile on his face. Simply superb from start to finish.
I know in my heart of hearts (of steel) that I’m probably over-rating this album, but it is just so damn good, I can’t stop playing it. The average Metal fan may not hear what I’m hearing and I realize that, but this album has grabbed me. On the surface KINGDOM OF EVIL might not seem like it deserves such high praise, but once in a while an album just strikes that chord and it becomes an instant favorite for no logical reason. Expect to see this is my Top 20 of the year.
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