Like many bands who enjoy a sudden rise to prominence, King 810 have attracted more than their fair share of detractors on their way into the public eye. From accusations of glamorizing gun violence to being just another bunch of wannabees lifting their Neo Nu-Metal sound from acts like Slipknot and Korn, the band now have the opportunity to silence many of their critics with their second full length release, La Petite Mort or A Conversation With God (Roadrunner).
If the Michigan four-piece were aiming for something unlikely to change those opinions then they’ve accomplished that with knobs on, as at times the new record sounds almost like a replica of their début. Some virtually identical vocal patterns combined with a handful of familiar melodies give songs on both albums a distinct sense of interchangeability. Some fairly shaky lyrics really don’t help its cause either, especially during the (admittedly crushingly heavy) ‘Alpha and Omega’ where the line, “Bitch, I am the powers that be!” sounds less like pent-up anger and frustration born of the streets and more like something Jesse Pinkman from sadly defunct TV show Breaking Bad would say before refusing to cook meth again.
In fact, until around the halfway point, La Petite Mort is pretty much the perfect example of a safe sophomore album. Playing deliberately to their known strengths, the subject matter from the first release is re-trodden in much the same way. Vocalist David Gunn vents his spleen at everything about his hometown that has ever pissed him off, either whispering menacingly into your ear or spitting out his brand of scathing, abrasive urban poetry with cathartic, venomous bile, but it’s really only ‘Vendettas’ and the dramatic orchestration of the quite brilliant ‘Black Swan’ which truly stand out among the first five cuts.
However, things change noticeably with the title track and the rest of the album begins to head down a quieter, but no less darker and oppressive path. In fact, most of La Petite Mort‘s more interesting moments happen from this point on. There are still the occasional stabs of distorted violence to sink your teeth into (the Trick-Trick assisted ‘War Time’ for example) but for the most part, the latter half of the record is a lot more restrained, thoughtful, and even slightly experimental. ‘I Aint Going Back Again’ is bleakly absorbing, the smoky Nick Cave-isms of ‘Me and Maxine’ are only let down by some wobbly lyrics, and the rising tension during the title track is almost palpable, but ‘Wolves Run Together’ never goes anywhere interesting enough to keep the listener’s attention, and the inexplicable Free Jazz sax solo during ‘Life’s Not Enough’ is likely to raise as many smirks as eyebrows.
Although not quite the “profound evolutionary leap” as heralded, and even if it appears the band are still keeping a few tricks firmly up their sleeves until the next album, La Petite Mort definitely shows genuine signs of progression, and bolstered by a suitably punchy production is a worthy follow-up to the début, even if it doesn’t ever quite hit the same heights.
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