The resurgence of 1990s Nu Metal shouldn’t be a real shock to anyone of a certain age. The enduring music put down by Korn, early-Deftones, Limp Bizkit, Snot, and many others funneled the heaviness of metal and the flavor of Hip-Hip from the decade before into an intoxicating blend. And while I love my trad metal brothers and sisters for repping songs about swords, wizards, and dragons; they were likely never stopped and frisked by cops, seen friends die in a hail of bullets, or poisoned by lead in their water. King 810 have, and they have become the flag bearers of what music marketing expert Finn McKenty (The Punk Rock MBA)calls crossover culture. Kids are more genre agnostic than ever, and when a band can filter past influences and present it to modern audiences a new and unique way, they click big-time. Fans love a groove they can latch on too and lyrics that feel authentic. King 810’s last album La Petite Mort Or A Conversation With God showed they were far from the run of the mill. They take it up another notch on Suicide King (KINGNation).
Like their last album, Suicide King has a surface layer of menace and dread. A nightmare landscape meant to invoke the harsh life Flint has to offer, and really just a microcosm of the world at large. ‘Heartbeats’ intro will get you amped up enough to want to yell “Wakanda Forever!” and rush headlong into a fight. It is a perfect crowd pleasing album opener: heavy, scary, and an endorphin-boosting jam. Second track ‘Braveheart’ is also heavy in a move the crowd way. The slick Jazzy guitar intro nearly fools you, but not before the riffs and the massive groove flows. Frontman David Gunn has an advantage over nearly every other rapping guy in a heavy band in the scene: he actually could make it as a full-time rapper. Legit, great lyrical flows, clever wordplay, cool references, and even at times, a deep poetry to his words. With his voice as his foil, he conveys hostility, vulnerability, longing, regret, and fight or flight feelings. Some of these tracks he could carry by himself. The chorus of “Braveheart, you will never be one of us.” threw me, but I am only half convinced it’s a shoutout to Nails. Yeah, there are some cringe moments at times, but going in, I knew I wasn’t the target audience. This album is going to really resonate with millennial and Gen Z.
‘Bang Guns’ has some good lift to it. Beats, rhymes, pianos, an interlude with a breathy lady singing. It’s a decent track and again focuses on the grit of street life. With its preacher begging for cash at the top (we see you Creflo Dollar!), the single ‘A Million Dollars’ might seem silly on the surface. But when you grow up in abject poverty and see depression and death all around you, “sex, money, power” are things you would crave. The track slaps though. Super fun and I’d like to see it performed live it live.
More hip-hop influenced than the track before, ‘.45’ has a lot of muscle to it. I can see all the kids in their bedrooms making a gun with their two fingers and screaming the chorus. It bumps like a jam should bump. Similarly, ‘What’s Gotten Into Me’ is another solid song. Great lyrics and bass. All the tracks on Suicide King are like a symphony of backing tracks, cutting riffs, bass-boosted lows, and sneaky earworms of pianos, strings, and other timbres making up the soundscape.
Then a weird thing happens three-quarters of the way through the album. ‘Black Rifle’ is a total revelation of a track. One part confessional, one part church spiritual, as Gunn’s bassy blues vocals take center stage. I had to make sure I didn’t switch to another album by accident. Yup, same record. This track is magnificent, more in common with Tom Waits, Eminem, Zeal & Ardor or Marilyn Manson’sThe Pale Emperor. Lyrically it’s also the best song on here. It’s so good from start to finish, I wish the entire album was like this song.
All of the rest of the album’s tracks have a similar religious symbolism as the focus. ‘God Is Watching’ is less seeking for forgiveness, and more of not needing permission anymore. You feel Gunn’s grief in the grit of his voice and bounce of the verses. ‘Wade In the Water’ feels a little more pastoral and chill. Listen to the track very closely to hear the second vocal line of spoken word poetry, whispered behind the already softly delivered lines.
Closer ‘Sing Me To Sleep’ is another surprise. Keeping the realism the band trades in so well, but has a hint of hopefulness among the gray. “I don’t wanna die, but I don’t wanna live like this”. We’ve all felt that way, even if you can’t imagine what these guys have been through. By skipping past the novelty of most groups in the genre and carving out their own niche, King 810 proves there won’t be a sophomore slump in their storybook.