Monday, August 22, 2016

Album Review: King Company - One For The Road

So much of the music business these days is about relationships. With as often as members come and go, it's never a bad thing to have a network of relationships to call on when that time arises. Or, when you decide to start a new project. That's what King Company is all about, as a former member of Thunderstone called on some friends, including the once again singer of Thunderstone, to try something new. Rather than play on their power metal past, they go back further into their roots, and give us an old-school hard rock band. King Company is about pulling back, letting loose, and having a good time making the kind of music almost all of us started with.

The title track opens the record, and in short order we're in the midst of a song that is a pure throwback to Deep Purple's heaviest days. The guitars have the right amount of crunch, Pasi Rantanen's voice fits this kind of music like a glove, and the organ and keyboard sounds are the best part of the 70s. Unfortunately, while they get the sound right, the song itself is rather flat and lifeless. It fits into that trend of hard rock that assumes melody is for wimps, so instead the chorus is a simple recitation of the title, which isn't interesting in the least.

But that's clearly not the attitude the band has, because the next song is completely different. "Shining" has less of an attachment to the past, and when the chorus hits, it's Pasi at his best. It's still simple hard rock, but it's delivered with a focus on both crunch and melody, so it works on more levels. It's such a better song that it almost makes me mad that the first impression the record gives you is of it at its cliched worst. Even when "In Wheels Of No Return" reverts back to the former approach, there's a pronounced use of backing vocals which give the appearance of more melody than there really is. For all the greatness that Ronnie James Dio gave us, his example that melodies aren't always necessary is the one blight on his legend.

There's a heavy Dio feeling to "No Man's Land", which is always a nice bit of nostalgia. But after that opening number, the hard rock that King Company gives us doesn't have so much in common with the music I was expecting. It's hard rock, for sure, but the sound has more modern touches to the writing than I was led to believe, which doesn't make the record any better or worse, but it does make it feel far more relevant than if they had stuck with the retro approach. It worked for Europe last year, but they pulled it off because they started out when that was what hard rock sounded like. It was the music in their souls. I wouldn't believe that about a brand new band, and thankfully King Company doesn't try to make me do that.

Though it's not truly a ballad, "Farewell" serves that role, and does so with the best hook on the album. It's the kind of towering rock song that makes these kinds of albums something to look forward to. There isn't a metal band around that pulls off that kind of sweet and sticky song to any degree (with the exception of Tobias Sammet - that man can write a ballad). That's the advantage to being a rock band. You can be heavy, but there's so much more you can do with your sound.

So what we can say about "One For The Road" is that it's an album that doesn't pave any new ground, if you pardon the pun, but it give us the satisfaction that comes from good, solid hard rock. Don't let my tempered language make it sound like I'm not endorsing the record. No, it's not going to be one of my absolute favorites of the year, but it doesn't need to be. There is more than enough room for more good records, and King Company has delivered one here. "One For The Road" is definitely worth giving a shot.

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