I’ve been a fan of The King Is Blind for a while now. Their first full length Our father was one of my favourite albums of the year by a long way. Now hot on its heels they’re releasing their second album We Are The Parasite, We Are The Cancer (Calva Records). Thematically the album carries on the satanic concept of Our Father, but as before is far more than just the heavy metal trope of “woo Satan”! It very cleverly uses the imagery as a foundation for a scathing indictment of modern life. Continue reading →
UK blackened death metal stalwarts The King Is Blind have dropped an album teaser trailer for their forthcoming new record, dubbed We Are the Parasite, We Are the Cancer via the bands’ own label Calva Records due outthis fall (Friday 13th… October)
Casting a beady eye over the albums that shaped the soundtrack to our Ghost Cult Albums Of The Year List for 2016, one thing becomes obvious… there are no dominant stylistic trends, no bandwagon sub-genres, other than a plethora of bands looking to push boundaries, whether that is to create new sounds or to refine and redesign. Intelligence, integrity and progression is king, and challenging and interesting approaches to designing and creating music are prevalent, with the deconstruction and cerebral reconstruction of heavy music an ongoing and fascinating development. Continue reading →
One of Manchester’s brightest up-and-coming lights opened this autumn evening, the first night of a huge week of metal in the city. Impavidus were as tight as hell, the commonly-used MeloDeath soubriquet seeming very wide of the mark despite Michelle Adamson’s staggering use of harsh and clean vocals and some howling leadplay from Gav Smith.
The criminally overlooked Blood Red Throne has been going for 18 years and 7 albums. Initially formed in 1998 by DØD (Satyricon) and Tchort (Satyricon, Emperor, Green Carnation) they are now releasing their 8th studio album Union of flesh and Machine on Spinefarm/Candlelight.
Blood Red Throne’s brand of Norwegian death metal has always been a particularly rewarding listen and Union of Flesh and Machine might just be their best album to date: Whilst tightly following their eponymous 2013 release they do raise the bar both in terms of song writing and crisper production. Right from the outset this beast of an album just hammers it home, within a few seconds of putting this on in my car I was struck with an over whelming urge to start a mosh pit, much to the annoyance of my insurance company.
Fast ultra-precise riffs, pummeling drums barking bellowing interspersed with shrill shrieks to create a dense brutal soundscape which means that even if they were content to just stick to the formula this would be a satisfying listen: they fortunately do so much more than deliver the basics.
Whilst there are most notably token similarities with the guttural stylings of perennial death metal benchmarks Cannibal Corpse, there are a lot more nuances to their sound and enough inventiveness within their rounded death metal sound to keep the listener interested through every single track, and there really isn’t a single weak track on this monster of an album.
Indeed unlike too many bands within the death metal sub-genre they don’t tie their flag to any one mast. This album much like The King is Blind’sOur Father earlier in the year this is a showcase of how great death metal can be when done properly. It encompasses much of the variants of the Floridian, Gothenburg and UK styles of death metal. It’s a celebration of Death Metal brutality with an inventiveness which prevents it from going stale which has been an issue in recent years with death metal.
From the Guttural growling groove of ‘Homicidal ecstasy’, through the proto Slayer feel of the title track, and most notably for me with the head scratching brilliance of the cover of Judas Priest’s ‘Leather Rebel’ sounding in equal parts Amon Amarth and Bolt Thrower this album just keeps delivering in a way which will keep the listener enthralled for many a listen.
They have only been a fully functioning unit for a short few years, but in what has already been a busy and exciting life span which has seen The King Is Blind become a fast rising and important part of the UK extreme metal scene, there has seemingly been two themes. The first of which has been their boldness, specifically to be uncompromising in their vision and to not work at half measures. In part, this boldness is a result of the experience of the individuals whom, despite their refusal to rely on past glories, have seen tenures in UK extreme metallers including Cradle Of Filth, Entwined and Extreme Noise Terror. As important as the band of course see their previous experience, it’s a factor that vocalist Stephen John Tovey does not see as something the band itself need to rely on.
“I like the fact that the album (Our Father, out on Cacophonous) is so strong that the media are focusing on what we are doing, our experience might get mentioned in passing but it generally hasn’t been an issue. That’s how we wanted it to be, we wanted it to be this organic thing, we didn’t want to be seen as living on past names, and to be honest I it serves us well to have had that past, we are going into this with our eyes open, we know what we are doing in the studio which is a huge learning curve when you’re younger. We don’t go into detail about what our past histories are when it comes up because its important in how we do things now, but that’s about as far as it goes.”
What this experience has certainly helped to mould however is this aforementioned confidence and boldness to pursue their vision, a move obvious in the band’s conceptual tract that showed signs throughout their demo and EP releases, to date culminating in Our Father’s duality between fantasty and reality. When asked about this assurance concerning the debut album, Tovey seems reflective about the band’s decision, proving both devil’s advocate to the notion whilst revealing that it was a discussed decision: “The other part of it though is; my first metal album was Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son, so coming in at the first album pick was a concept album, again on a mystical kind of scale. So when doing Deficiencies Of Man (Mordgrimm) and I was talking about lyircs, and I said to Lee (Appleton) that I always wanted to do the thing of telling the story of Satan but my interpretation of it and how I wanted to do it, but I felt it was probably something for album 2 or 3, and he was like we might not get an album 2, and that was a hard hitting comment because he was right, who knows what’s going to happen; at the time we didn’t have a label for the album. The other point was we had to the best we could do at this stage so we are going to an album, why not put everything we can in to it?”
The thought process the band took into bringing this concept to life saw them look in great detail about layout and flow, even delving in to the all time greats for influence and a blueprint. “We were really meticulous, when making the album we already had two or so songs written at that point, we sat down and mapped out our favourite albums and the flow and taking things, like with Master Of Puppets, ‘Battery’ being the first song, this aggressive, fast first song, SSOASS and ‘Stargazer’ on Rising side two in the old format, and having that king of thing in mind, ‘Mesmeric Furncae’, the long, last song like a ‘Cthulu’ or ‘Alexander The Great’, a question mark and challenge at the end, doing something different to the rest of the album but in a larger scale as well by having a more progressive song to finish with, so we were very aware of how we wanted to lay the album out.”
The second theme that seems to run through TKIB’s story is the idea of things coming full circle, and for things falling in to place at the right time. For Tovey and Appleton this would follow from their long term friendship from school, and their time together in Entwined and their connection and friendship with guitarist Paul Alan Ryan-Reader during his tenure in Cradle Of Filth’s early days. Adult life and commitments would mean band life was not thought to be on the cards, nor was it sought out as such; as Tovey explains, TKIB against the odds, just kind of happened organically: “None of us were looking to do a band specifically , and then ‘Mors Somnis’ happened with Lee writing it. He got in touch with me about putting vocals on it and did we want to see what happened, and that’s kind of where the process started, then other songs happened, we recorded them, Paul heard then, said if we were looking to become a proper band he would be interested, and we said let’s do it, we thing the stuff we’ve got and got coming is too good not to, and its just happened from there.”
In part, as well as adult commitments and the starting of families, Tovey explains that there simply wasn’t the headspace to be making metal music: “Some of it was just right time right place, we were all settled in life now we’ve got young families, I guess we were all secure in who we are and where we are and that helps, that plays a big part. And I think there’s a part in each of our lives when we moved away from metal in our twenties and early thirties, I know for me and Lee we just weren’t in that place at all. Gradually I think when you become happy in yourself you come back to what you love, I know I didn’t get OUT of metal but I definitely stopped being in to knowing what was going on and I think that was the case for Lee as well.”
Personifying the notion that you never truly stop loving metal once its grabbed you, Tovey explains the exact moment when his passion and love truly returned: “2009 or 2010, for no real reason at all I bought one of the magazines out of interest just to see what was going on, and I saw an advert for Amorphis playing London. I used to be a massive Amorphis fan back in the 90’s, Thousand Lakes and Elegy (both Relapse) were massive for me and I thought it might be a laugh. I bought the current album Skyforger (Nuclear Blast) and it was really fucking good, and the gig was brilliant, it all kind of connected. I can credit Amorphis, for me personally, for reigniting that spark and getting things going again.”
The King Is Blind, by Rich Price Photography
This inspiration from a stalwart band of the underground proves fitting considering the band’s signing to the returning, legendary Cacophonous label, founder of many pioneering and critically acclaimed acts from Dimmu Borgir to Sigh, and even the full debut Cradle Of FilthThe Principle Of Evil Made Flesh (which included one Ryan-Reader). A signing which shows the band’s part in the Uk extreme scene, and further showcases the band’s, and Tovey’s lofty aspirations for what they can achieve: “We see it as a positive challenge, more than a negative pressure. Again, one of our own intentions , and trying not to sound arrogant, is to have an album that stands with that legacy of great British metal, more realistically like when you had Carcass, Napalm Death, Boltthrower, My Dying Bride etc. Theres a strong legacy of intelligent, interesting British metal which challenged people, and more recently Voices, who follow with a creative and dark album. We want to follow that with an album that people will talk about when they have those conversations.”
Lofty goals of wanting to find their place along some of the all time greats in other hands may seem beyond the realms of possibility, but this is a band that have thrived on pushing forward and a bold streak, and the potential seemingly limitless. Bow down to the King.
Amidst the familiar tales and experiences of bands taking great amounts of time to find their feet, make a mark and find an audience, sometimes there are the stories of those who seem to have the Midas touch, ascending with seeming ease towards greatness. For many, self-attributed “Monolithic metallers” The King Is Blind must have come out of nowhere, with the release of their début album Our Father (Cacophonous) this year and slots at the prestigious Downloadand Bloodstockfestivals. In reality, theirs is a story of a couple of years of making a name amongst the metal underground, with a well received EP The Deficiencies Of Man (Mordgrimm) in 2014 and, due to work and life commitments, sparing but formidable live shows making them a strong presence on the UK extreme metal scene.
With so much achieved in such a relatively short existence, you can be forgiven for thinking of TKIB as a sudden success story, plucked out of obscurity; but as vocalist and former bassist Steve Tovey explains, the journey has been busier than perhaps meets the eye: “I think its been pretty much two years, give or take, since we played our first ever show, to then playing our own headline show at The Black Heart (London), a prestigious venue and having an album out on a seminal label, yeah its kind of been a fast journey. But what hasn’t felt so much like a rollercoaster is the fact that we’ve kept grounded and we’ve kept writing, so we are thinking the whole time around what we are writing, where are we going, what story are we telling next…It seems we’ve always been 3 or 4 songs ahead of what has come out, so its been more of a steady process for us, but for the external to is, it probably does seem much quicker.”
Aside from these mammoth achievements, the band’s short duration thus far has seen them come on huge leaps musically. From their initial demo release Bleeding The Ascension(Self released), at the time when the band was comprised of Tovey and guitarist Lee Appleton, which saw early signs of their vision alongside a lot of hero worship, through to the DOM EP and the joining of guitarist Paul Alan Ryan-Reader and drummer Barney Monger; to the rich sonic wealth of Our Father, which draws upon a huge array of dark and extreme influences into a fluid, layered and forward thinking nature. A clear evolution that Tovey explains even further: “I think when we first started, going back to the demo, and even to an extent with TDOM, both were about establishing where we were coming from, so I think BTA was a bit more of a doomy, raw approach. DOM was Paul and Barney joining and bring a real impetuous boost of aggression and that old school death metal power to the sound. From that point we then realised were in a good place, we touched upon a fair amount of ground even over those four songs and it worked, so, one thing I’ve said from day one is that there’s 45 years of metal, so why restrict yourself, why limit yourself, there’s so much great music and influences out there, so part of our discussion was to not restrict ourselves.”
Even with this in mind, the scope that they encompass over début album Our Father is quite staggering. From the pacey and anthemic aggression of ‘Bloodlet Ascension’ to the menacing crawl of ‘Mors Somnis’ and the progressive journey of ‘Mourning Light’, TKIB mould a huge spectrum together in a way that is cohesive and natural. “The development from DOM particularly to Our Father was that everything was explored, it wasn’t carrying down a linear path, it was taking a central point and expanding out from there and that covers lyrically, musically, production wise, packaging, the whole thing was an expansion in every direction, and we pushed it as far as we could while it still sounded cohesive.”
With such a myriad of styles at hand, surely there was the risk of a lack of fluidity or of things sounding at odds with each other, but as Tovey comments, this was never considered as a real risk: “I think the only time we had that conversation was around the track ‘Bloodlet Ascension’, when we wrote that we loved it, but we had the chat of is it too heavy metal? Is it going down that more traditional metal route that is intrinsic in our sound in certain ways because, me and Lee grew up with Iron Maiden as our first musical love, but we decided that we really liked the song, it’s a very rabble rousing song, and the more we talked about it, the more it seemed to fit. So we tried it out at a couple of gigs to see and it went down really well, and it is a bit of a departure for us but it opens up the door for that style to be incorporated more into future releases I think. But I think that’s the only time, we’ve been very confident that although there is a diversity, it’s always felt and sounded like us. As long as its metal and its dark and aggressive, there’s no limit to it.”
Alongside the seemingly limitless musical direction, Our Father also sees a deep, intertwined narrative throughout, one that is based on fantasy but also as allegory for reality and humanity, and specifically its flaws, a concept that has been a part of the band’s mantra throughout, particularly looking at the EP title for The Deficiencies Of Man. On its most basic level this story sees the battle between God vs Satan, but sees its protagonists in light of grey rather than clear-cut good or bad. This idea of a complex and striking concept is one that Tovey explains was very important to convey for the band, and importantly for himself as a lyricist: “I wanted to tell a story, but I didn’t just want it to be a story, I wanted it to work on several different levels, so I set myself a challenge that each song needed to be standalone but tie in to the arc; so while there are central themes, which are generally around the seven sins, how I look at it is that we are drawn to one or two vices, so each song kind of looks at one or two of those areas whilst still tying into the central narrative. So the lyrics had to work on three levels, the narrative, about the deficiencies of man and then their own story as well.”
The King Is Blind, by Richard Price
The subject matter of Satan, God and Religion are of course staples of extreme metal, either in fiction or as social commentary; but Tovey hastens to point out that his band’s message is not anti-religious at all. “For me, religion isn’t the problem, its people that are the problem. The underlying tenant of pretty much every religion is love and peace, and respecting each other which gets lost because people misinterpret it or they take certain writings and use it to justify what they are trying to do. It needs to be clear that this album is not anti-religion, its absolutely not anti-faith because, if there’s something you get out of belief that makes you a better person, makes you feel stronger, then absolutely I’m all for that, but at the same time pointing out that some people use it as a mask or a reason or excuse to do some particularly unpleasant and undesirable things.”
The position of the band’s viewpoints of society and such also stem considerably from the member’s journey of parenthood which, as Tovey comments, made them ask a lot of questions and really shaped the albums message. “Most of us are parents, we have young children, and it asks us a lot of questions about our flaws as humans, but also asking are you the right model for your child, how would you react in certain situations and should you change that, what ethics and morals are you passing on? But we know that not everyone is going to be too worried about the lyrics are about so the music is still the central focus, for a lot of people that’s what they are going to be in to, but for those who want to delve deeper, we have it there so people and probe and dig in to.”