Monday, July 19, 2010

Crush - Kingdom of the Kings (1994)

It's almost impossible not to draw some parallel between the obscure Greek metal band Crush and the more popular Danish legend of King Diamond, because there are a few aesthetic choices on this sole full-length effort Kingdom of the Kings that feel familiar to both. The creepy, spoken word intro "Beyond the Gates..." sounds like something the King might use as a part of his horror metal narrative, and the leads throughout several songs, such as the one opening "March of the Deads" have that expressive effect of Andy LaRocque's guitar tone echoing off into the night, where anything could happen. The Greeks also were known to don some rather silly face paint, almost a clownish approximation of King's look in his solo act and Mercyful Fate.

But that's where the comparisons end, because Crush is a competent heavy metal band who offer a series of entertaining songs of a traditional nature here that could appeal to fans of both classic NWOBHM sounds and those who feast upon the dawn of power metal in the 80s, through bands like Manilla Road and Omen. That this band has existed since 1983, performed a number of shows and never really gotten attention or produced more than this album is either a symptom of their own laziness or a cruel twist of fortune, but however you can hear it, Kingdom of the Kings is worth hunting down, because despite the occasional stings of awkward cheesiness or the lo-fi budget of its manifestation, it has enough mirth to charm you straight back into the 80s.

After the not so creepy, whispered intro over freakish, ghostlike ambient sounds, "March of the Deads" builds some huge, atmospheric chords while the bass pops along and the leads soar off in a lattice of melodic refreshment. The vocals actually range from a manly mid-range, with some angry, almost narrative barking, to a higher, penetrating pitch, and the track plays out like a ghastly undead fantasy. "The Gloriest Night" throws down some meaty riffs and angrier vocals, like the warsong of an orc horde about to raid your village, or some mixture of Omen and Cirith Ungol. "Princess of Hell" has a similar effect, while "Run to the Highway" is a nice, uplifting melodic piece, and "Ballad of Sorrow" delivers exactly what it promises, a moody slice of mystery with some great leads and elevating climax.

As crude as the record sounds by today's standards, I've really enjoyed it. It exhibits a wonderful innocence wreathed in powerful, epic heavy metal. Fans of Manowar, Manilla Road, Doomsword and other manly bands who don't mind a little bit of lo-fi with their cheese and whine will come away smiling from this album, and it's fairly well organized throughout. It took the band over a decade to release this, and it's now about 16 years, but the band have re-issued it in 2009, and believe it or not, they are together today and possibly working on new material.

Verdict: Win [7.75/10]

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