Almanac – Kingslayer (Nuclear Blast)Friday, 10th November 2017
Historical themes seem tailor-made to the metal landscape – evident from Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden in the early days on through to God Dethroned and Hail of Bullets today. Tackling the fight for the throne and the myriad of methods people use to obtain this power, Almanac releases their second album Kingslayer – providing real-life back stories of kings and queens from distant lands as Sri Lanka to England as the power/symphonic metal anthem backdrop penetrates the audience in active, entertaining engagement. Ex-Rage guitarist/keyboardist Victor Smolski leads this sextet in terms of his songwriting and performances, but he is smart enough to include three diverse vocalists with character to flesh out the work and make these ten tracks bristle with vibrancy and urgency.
Musically Almanac possess a mixture of power riffs and symphonic textures, along with a darker nature to Victor’s guitar tone that pushes things into that modern veneer (most evident right out of the gate for the main riff to “Regicide”). His playing can often be frantic during the instrumental sections to showcase some of his speed tricks and technical flash for the spirited “Losing My Mind” or subsequent, short title track interlude – but the man understands that it’s all for naught if you can’t develop ideal hooks and construct material in proper, sequential fashion. And this record contains a boatload of chugging riffs or rhythms/tempos that audience battle for – the best to these ears include “Guilty as Charged” (Helloween ringing through for reference sake) and “Headstrong”, the latter featuring some fancy bass tricks from Tim Rashid.
The voices delivering these kings and queens storylines are among some of the best in the business for melodic hard rock and power metal. Andy B. Franck of Brainstorm/Symphorce fame has that snarl and scream combination, David Readman of Pink Cream 69 soars to the heavens with that bluesy twist, while the wild card Jeannette Marchewka isn’t of the typical Nightwish/operatic siren mold, offering more melody with that rock sheen. They often appear together in tradeoffs song to song, which makes for great harmony possibilities in the faster aforementioned “Headstrong”, while handling a more subdued atmosphere for “Last Farewell” with proper restraint and emotional versatility.
Kingslayer showcases Almanac using all the talent assembled in the right directions for the greater good of the final product. It takes the promise of their Tsar debut to stronger heights in terms of melodies, hooks, and heavier dynamics – and will in turn appease not only Rage fans, but also those who want stirring, modern power/symphonic metal that sticks with you.