Kings Among Men
An ear-pummeling listen
There are a handful of heavy metal styles with an expected sound. Over the years, those standard genres have cross-fed each other into various sub-genres and hybrids. For me, those bands keep the dark waters swirling and fresh from stagnation.
Crimson Shadows plays epic power metal with a vocal set that is fairly complex and as such initially challenging. 'Kings Among Men' has a pulverizing blend of deep growls, aneurism-inducing shrieks, and clean vocals (plus gang vocals!) often alternating on vocal lines of the same verse or even in unison. It sounds chaotic, but there are patterns in the maelstrom to grab on to, like the power-to-power/growl verse alternations of "Freedom and Salvation".
How do we begin to refer to a release with a triumvirate of vocal styles? The philosophy behind it all is not death or hate here. It's fantasy elements from classic power ideals with a comingling of triumphant zeal and victorious battle domination. In the titles alone are the informing keywords--victory, rise, heroes, kings, storm, freedom, etc. My only knock on the record is that repetition and me being personally old enough to be somewhat disconnected from the themes. It is a much nicer artistic cover than the prior release though.
Save for a brief respite of a minute or two, every song gallops at full speed with an unrelenting rhythm, making this an ear-pummeling listen. It takes a few spins to separate out individual songs; usually by the lead melody. There is, at least, a little bit of time for some celebratory ale in "A Gathering of Kings".
When you incorporate various elements of metal, it makes for an interesting listen, but purists from different camps will have to determine if they can handle this kind of mixed vocal release. If you can (or grow used to it), it may be transgressive enough to open your mind into genres once thought of as personally unapproachable.
After winning the Wacken Open Air Metal Battle 2013 title against other unsigned, international bands, Crimson Shadows had the bar set high. With 'Kings Among Men', not only have they smashed through it, they have ground the bar into dust.
This is a Canadian horde setting out to conquer all. Fans of simplistic metal need not apply.
Recommended for fans of: Three Inches of Blood