It’s probably safe to say that Magnus Karlsson is one of the hardest working guys in heavy metal. He’s had bands of his own, been a major guitarist and writer for the likes of Bob Catley, Michael Kiske, Allen/Lande, is a member of Primal Fear (since 2009), and still finds the time to write and record solo albums that feature a ridiculous amount of guest talent. The Free Fall solo project has given Karlsson a space to call his own that allows him to work with a “who’s who” list of vocalists. The debut album, 2013’s self-titled effort, was easily one of my favorite albums of that year and wound up in my Top 3. With all of the man’s other projects, I had assumed that the album was a one-off, so imagine my excitement when I heard that a second album was on the way!
Happily, KINGDOM OF ROCK continues in the vein that fans will be used to from Karlsson: an upbeat mixture of hard rock and power metal that uses keyboards to spice the melodic music but is completely guitar-driven. As impressive as the guest vocalists were last time, its easily equalled this time and includes legends like Jorn Lande, Tony Martin, and Joe Lynne Turner amongst a host of other masters (check out the handy-dandy listing at right for complete details). So, no worries about the men (and woman) behind the mic then.
Musically, as mentioned, this is right in Karlsson’s known wheelhouse. Whether it’s a speedster like “Out of the Dark”, a stomping mid-pacer like “When the Sky Falls”, or a more melodic rocker like “A Heart So Cold”, I’m constantly amazed at the high-quality craft on display. Karlsson’ has a talent for song writing that is truly impressive. The only stumble would be the ballad, “The Right Moment”; it’s OK, but falls short of the high standards of the rest of the album.
Over the past six years or so, Karlsson’s projects have attained “must hear” status for me and KINGDOM OF ROCK was certainly worth the wait. I may have enjoyed the debut a little bit more, but that takes nothing away from this album – it’s a must have for all fans of hard rock.
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