Over the years, Canada’s contributions to music have been quite hit or miss. Though Canada has birthed the likes of RUSH, VOIVOD, CRYPTOPSY and GORGUTS , it has also somehow let DRAKE, SIMPLE PLAN, THE BARENAKED LADIES and JUSTIN BIEBER ooze forth from its loins. While our neighbor to the North may not have a perfect track record musically, its metal scene does feature quite a few flawless bands, particularly in the worlds of thrash, death and power metal.
One example of the ridiculous talent coming from the Great White North is Toronto‘s CRIMSON SHADOWS. Like fellow countrymen SCYTHIA, they have managed to release one of the greatest power metal albums you’ll hear all year. After a brief-yet-epic intro, Kings Among Men stomps on the gas pedal, unleashing a blizzard of epic and bone crushing proportions starting with “Rise to Power”. It’s a song that perfectly showcases their use of thrashing, heavy rhythms that are also soaring and triumphant when necessary, as well as their masterful mixture of barbarous screaming and catchy, heroic clean singing.
After setting the pace with that opener “Heroes Among Us” doesn’t slow things down a single bit, in fact it ups the ante significantly more with a few riffs that would make DRAGONFORCE’S Herman Li and Sam Totman crap their pants. “A Gathering of Kings” also has quite a few bad ass Dragonforcian riffs and a chorus that perfectly utilizes their good Viking/bad Viking mix of screaming and singing. On “Maidens Call” and “Braving the Storm”, the attack doesn’t wane much from the brutal riff with brutal vocals-soaring riffs with clean vocals formula, but it doesn’t really have to, honestly.
After a brief respite in the action with intro “On the Eve of Battle”, the battle continues with more dizzying solos, impossibly catchy choruses and headbangable-as-hell riffs on “Freedom and Salvation” and “Dawn of Vengeance”. When the monstrous, ten-minute album closer “Moonlite Skies and Bloody Tides” roars in, it’s obvious they truly saved the best for last. Though the song is a bit lengthy, its riffs are faster and heavier and the chorus is one of the best on the disc. What really stands out though is the way it begins fading around the 7:20 mark with an incredible solo that sustains one last blast of heaviness until it segues into a glorious battle-weary outro leaving the album in the same triumphant manner that it started.
I think there’s only one complaint I have about this record that keeps it from being perfect. I get that they’re trying to make strong, powerful, epic-as-shit songs, but the fact that they constantly use the same structure makes things a tad monotonous at times. I mean, there are only so many songs in a row that I can withstand the same brutal-pretty-brutal formula without any real variations before all the cool shit going on within those songs loses a bit of its luster.
Other than being a bit of a one-trick pony in places, Kings Among Men is still a great record to jam when you’re bored at work and need an energy boost. Although, I wouldn’t recommend ripping your pants off, throwing your monitor out the window and screaming about wenches, mead and ingesting the blood of your enemy, as it tends to lead you to the unemployment line, sadly.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Rise To Power”, “Heroes Among Us”, “Dawn Of Vengeance”, “Moonlite Skies and Bloody Tides”
WRITTEN BY JOHNNY RINGÖ