Released: 2010, Relapse Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
I feel like I’m supposed to like Kingdom of Sorrow a lot more than I actually do, it’s almost like a nagging guilt. But if I were a betting man, I’d wager that I’m not alone in that sentiment. As much as the Jamey Jasta/Kirk Windstein collaboration was hyped in the press, the band’s 2008 self-titled debut left me wholly underwhelmed. The disc sounded like a collection of leftover Down riffs, but with Jasta playing the role of Phil Anselmo. I gave the disc an “E” for effort and quietly prayed that Windstein would quit dicking around and give us a new Crowbar record. Fast forward two years, and while there’s still not a new Crowbar record yet, Jasta and Windstein apparently felt that KOS had some unfinished business to deal with. The band’s follow up, BEHIND THE BLACKEST TEARS, attempts to define a greater identity of its own, but still falls way short of its potential.
Now, a Hatebreed/Crowbar crossover project sounds interesting on paper, but so does deep dish Chicago-style pizza smothered in Reese’s peanut butter cups. And while I’d be willing to give it latter an obligatory fair shake, I’d be hesitant to go back for seconds. Such is my experience with Kingdom of Sorrow. My primary bone of contention with BEHIND THE BLACKEST TEARS is that it doesn’t resolve any of the problems from the first album. Save for a thicker, beefed up production this go around, there’s really nothing to differentiate this batch of songs from the debut. Southern styled, down-tuned riffs? Check. Jamey Jasta’s incessant inflectionless shouting? Check. And that formula repeats pretty much throughout the disc’s hour-plus of playing time. Okay, so there are some tempo adjustments here and there, but it gets repetitive pretty quickly.
The few success on the disc shine through when the duo break out of their comfort zones. “Enlightened to Extinction” and “God’s Law in the Devil’s Hand” are rare examples of Jasta attempting to inject some melody into his monotonous “I’M SHOUTING AS LOUD AS I CAN” bark, which is a shame. His one-dimensional vocal approach smothers whatever subtleties the riffs may try to convey, and make many of the songs hard to differentiate from one another. My favorite cut on the disc is unquestionably the haunting dirge “From Heroes to Dust,” which features a memorable lead vocal performance from Windstein, with Jasta providing some emotive supporting growls that still suit his vocal style, but don’t come across as overbearing. It’s a great track, and indicates that there’s potentially a deeper songwriting well between the two. Unfortunately the well gets capped pretty quickly here.
BEHIND THE BLACKEST TEARS isn’t a bad album, but given the pedigree behind Kingdom of Sorrow, it should have been freakin’ fantastic. With a few exceptions, the tunes tend to mush together for a regrettably forgettable album. You’re likely to get a few good listens out of it, but it won’t take long before you’ve moved on to whatever other new music you’re sitting on.