Maybe it is due to having seen “the next big thing” come and go several times over with very few of the chosen ones having the ability, longevity or musicality to either make it or deserve it, but us metallers past our mid-teens (Ok, some way past!) are extremely suspicious about any band with even a whiff of hype about them. Roadrunner’s latest push King 810 have a whole perfume empire of propaganda behind their debut full-length Memoirs Of A Murderer. It is evident that King 810 are well on their way to becoming an established and successful name in the world of mainstream metal, but whether they deserve to succeed where others are by-passed is a whole other issue.
From the outset it is clear that the quartet, who have put Flint, Michigan well and truly on the metal map, have progressed immeasurably since 2012’s leaden and monotone EP Midwest Monsters (Independent). They have not only found their niche, a distinctive one flecked with violence and diversity, but vocalist David Gunn has found his voice with his already infamous tales of life in the poverty-striken, violence and bloodshed blocks of his home town. He says he is holding up a mirror to reflect his environment, an unwelcoming town of violence and murder, and in ‘Write About Us’, an interesting percussive poetry piece, explains the people he grew up with asked him to tell their story on the album.
Whether the urban myths of King 810 are truth, fabrication or exaggeration (probably a mixture of all three), and the Roadrunner push is “justified” or not, the band will, as most bands do, stand or fall on its songs. Image, controversy or mystique will only get you so far, and for so long, but mix those three elements, calculated or otherwise, with good songs and the doors to success open wide.
For the uninitiated, King 810 create dark, bruising nu-metal, sitting somewhere between Korn and Slipknot with a touch of American Headcharge and Hollywood Undead, creating big songs, backed up by fat guitars and slum-levelling hate-anthem choruses. Gunn’s vocals sit part way between narration and gravelled shouts, while the guitars, heavy, remain simple but weighty, like human carcasses hanging on meathooks, fattened by the excellent sonic work of producer Josh Schroeder.
It only takes a few listens for the tales of knives, guns, urban survival and murder to earworm their way in, and you can already see in the minds’ eye whole festival fields slamming and hollering to ‘Killem All’, moshing to ‘Best Night Of My Life’; a belting tune with an uptempo Hardcore vibe that strains against the leash, or pit-stomping and posturing to ‘Fat Around The Heart’, while ‘Desperate Lovers’ is pure catchy, down-tuned modern neck metal.
This isn’t a perfect album. It’s not as innovative as Korn (Immortal/Epic), it doesn’t have the songs or blow-you-the-fuck-away wildness of Slipknot (Roadrunner), has a few too many tracks (two spoken word pieces, the non-song ‘Carve My Name’ and the stock ‘War Outside’) and the running order isn’t right, as ‘Devil Don’t Cry’ is the highlight and natural showstopper yet appears two-thirds of the way through. Nor is this Neanderthal groove-metalling, more a metal Wu Tang Clan (with tip of the hat to @M1kecollins for the description) and these tracks slit the throat and pour concrete down the neck of ‘Big Truck’. This is a modern release based around a winning formula while embracing diversity. ‘Eyes’ is a delicate electronic-led track that wouldn’t be out of place on Marilyn Manson’s underrated Holy Wood (Nothing/Interscope), while ‘Devil Don’t Cry’ and ‘State of Nature’ are bare, exposed tunes stark with piano and strings leading their Dark Country take, as if Nick Cave was crooning a Johnny Cash tune. Elsewhere, the mix of thick, simple riffs and bellowed choruses works exceptionally well. These are street-anthems, made to be yelled back, whose simplicity and hooks work into the brain. Memoirs Of A Murderer is an album of quality controversial, mainstream metal.