Released: 2015, Restricted Release/Plastic Head Music
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
After staying largely under the radar for the past decade or so following the last album by Leadfoot, vocalist Karl Agell seems to be getting back into the swing of things for real these days by revisiting his past while at the same time looking to the future.
Agell has been celebrating Corrosion of Conformity’s transformational 1991 album Blind – which he sang on quite brilliantly in what would turn out to be his lone album with COC - by touring as part of the “COC Blind” band that features COC founding drummer Reed Mullin. And he’s got a new band with Leadfoot guitarist Scott Little that actually have some fresh material available, even if it has a somewhat familiar ring, in more ways than one.
The self-titled, five-track effort from King Hitter find them adopting a sound aligned more with the metalized hard rock of Blind than the sludgey vibe of Leadfoot, though with a far less threatening, overtly politicized tone. Where Blind was an upper-cut to the jaw, the EP prefers to jab and bob and weave – despite the insinuation of the band/EP's name/title, which also carries over to the eponymous opening track.
“King Hitter” offers bouncy, rollicking start to the EP with its chunky hooks and driving tempo and Agell's buoyant, but effectively rough-hewn vocals. “Drone Again” slows the pace, though not nearly as much as the title would imply,” and offers more of a Southern rock stomp, before “Feel No Pain” kicks things back into almost Motorheadish high-gear, with Little and Mike Brown delivering dynamite lead tradeoffs that recall Thin Lizzy in their prime.
“Suicide (is the Retirement Plan)” has an Alice In Chains vibe to it with its swaggering beat and crunching riffs and Agell's eerily reflective lyrics and vocals – though the twin solo break again harks back to Thin Lizzy. “The End” circles back to “King Hitter” and concludes things at a brisk jog while delivering the EP's biggest hooks and some wicked slide guitar soloing.
The EP offers what seems like something from the full spectrum of King Hitter's repertoire, which shows some intriguing variations even though its influences are rather obvious. Agell's voice is still as resonant and passionate as ever, and fits just fine with the determined hard rocking of his bandmates. As first efforts go, it's a solid first step that hopefully the band can build upon while also developing a sound that is a bit more their own.