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Crimson Shadows - "Kings Among Men" (CD)

Crimson Shadows - "Kings Among Men" CD cover image

"Kings Among Men" track listing:

1. On the Eve of Battle (0:58)
2. Rise to Power (4:16)
3. Heroes Among Us (4:34)
4. A Gathering of Kings (5:29)
5. Maidens Call (6:24)
6. Braving the Storm (6:54)
7. March of Victory (1:11)
8. Freedom and Salvation (4:42)
9. Dawn of Vengeance (5:21)
10. Moonlite Skies and Bloody Tides (10:15)

Reviewed by on August 27, 2014

"The Crimson Shadows members should pay more attention to the underrated songwriting that accompanies their vocal inspiration, and less to their guitar heroes, and they’d write music that rivaled their execution and band construction chops."

Some things go together. Peanut butter and chocolate. Ball and socket. Fenriz and Nocturno Culto. Other things don’t. Guacamole and marshmallows. Drinking and driving. Lars Ulrich, and well, anyone else (zing). Crimson Shadows takes Dragonforce music and pairs it with Johan Hegg (Amon Amarth) vocals. Does this combination yield salty-sweet goodness, or mismatched grossness? Spoiler – it’s somewhere in the middle.

The music itself is speed-demon 32nd note power metal heaven. Every song is moderately-to-very fast, littered with riffs, bridges, speed-pushing solos, and double-kick drums. The guitars of Greg Rounding and Ryan Hofing are fast, precise, and never-ending. Cory Hofing’s drums are sniper accurate and his double kicks are sonic-boom speedy. Jimi Maltais, the primary harsh vocalist, hews closely to the path cleared by Hegg and his fellow melodic death frontmen. Deep guttural roars are the modus operandi, with Maltais’ enunciation just clear enough to make out some-to-most of the lyrics.

Each song on its own is a solid power/melodic death mashup. But “Kings Among Men” suffers the same problem as DragonForce’s newest long player – it’s all straight-ahead, one note blasting. No subtlety, no variation. They wrote one song, changed a few bits up, then had seven more. Even album closer “Moonlite Skies and Bloody Tides” barely stops under a shady tree to rest anywhere during its ten minute headlong rush to the end.

This isn’t black-sludge-drone-etc where the sameness creates the power. Epic/power metal needs overt variation to tell the story or else it quickly becomes stale and soft. “Freedom and Salvation,” “Maidens Call,” and “A Gathering of Kings” get close, but it is really just the last bits when the band quickly hits a big finish. “Braving the Storm” has some type of actual bridge/interlude, but it doesn’t end up mattering as the riff and leads on the first half of “Braving the Storm” are almost exactly the same as “Maidens Call.” Better album sequencing would have made “Braving the Storm” stand out quite a bit more.

Harsh vocals over epic/power metal is a welcome change of pace to a mostly over-wrought and over-done sub-genre. Correspondingly Crimson Shadows’ problem lies not in mismatched parts, but in vision. The Crimson Shadows members should pay more attention to the underrated songwriting that accompanies their vocal inspiration, and less to their guitar heroes, and they’d write music that rivaled their execution and band construction chops. Just like Lars (not)(zing).

Highs: Despite the poor ordering, “Braving the Storm” is the best track on the album.

Lows: There isn’t anything egregious – just the sameness of it all.

Bottom line: Melodic death/power metal mashup works, but the band needs a larger scope.

Rated 3.0 out of 5 skulls
3.0 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)