Almanac – Kingslayer – Album Review

Almanac - Kingslayer - Artwork

Artist: Almanac

Album Title: Kingslayer

Label: Nuclear Blast

Date Of Release: 24 November 2017

On paper, a band that features guitarist Victor Smolski (ex-Rage) alongside a trio of vocalists of the calibre of Andy B. Franke (Brainstorm), David Readman (Pink Cream 69) and Jeannette Marchewka (Lingua Mortis Orchestra) is a proposition worth checking out. At least that’s what I thought when I found out that this is exactly what Almanac offers.

‘Kingslayer’ is the sophomore release from the symphonic power metal band and, having initially ignored it, I found myself intrigued enough by the collective clientele to give it a listen. What I have discovered is an album in ‘Kingslayer’ which is an enjoyable symphonic power metal record. However, I was hoping for something a little stronger all-round if I’m honest. In a year that has delivered superb power metal albums from the likes of Serenity and Pyramaze to name just two, the cold hard truth is that Almanac fall just that little bit short.

And that’s even with the unique selling point of a hard-hitting vocal trio. It is undisputed that each of the singers has a great voice; Franke has that lovely gruff timbre that’s one of many trademarks of the Brainstorm sound, Readman soars with a velvety smooth delivery, whilst Marchewka has a rich and vibrant tone. Unfortunately, Marchewka is too frequently lost in the mix when she duets with either of her male counterparts, or with both at the same time. It is only when she goes solo, which is rare, that her full abilities can be heard. A missed opportunity? I think so, yes.

I’m also a little deflated by the quality of a handful of the songs. There are, as far as I’m concerned, a couple of bona-fide fillers on this record, the kind of compositions that I find myself itching to fast forward. And that’s a big shame because when Almanac hit the mark, the result is something full of power, bombast and ludicrously infectious too.

Opener ‘Regicide’ starts things off well for Smolski and Co. The opening sounds are dramatic and dark in tone, seguing into a monstrously heavy and groovy down-tuned riff that shakes the Earth. Franke sounds suitably menacing, accented by some strong keys before the track opens up into a catchy chorus, full of melody and galloping rhythms.

‘Losing My Mind’ is also a song full of melodic power, with a glorious, hook-laden power metal chorus, within which Readman particularly shines. It’s a genuine grower of a track that gets better with repeated listens, even the heavily effect-laden vocals of Marchewka in the verses. The accompanying video might be just a little on the cheesy side, but that does not detract from the quality of the song, which screams excess, but in classic power metal fashion, flirting with the dreaded cheesiness throughout but ultimately staying the right side of the line.

‘Hail To The King’ has a strong Brainstorm vibe, where a chunky, chugging riff serves as the overall focal point of the track, around which Almanac play around with an anthemic-sounding chorus, bold theatrics, over-the-top lead guitar histrionics and an 80s melodic hard rock sheen.

And, if you’re looking for a slab of unadulterated bombast and pomp, ‘Kingdom of the Blind’ is the song for you. Bathed in rich orchestration and synths, this is just about as epic as Almanac has ever sounded. It helps that the melodies are powerful and memorable, as is the lead guitar work of the irrepressible Smolski, whilst the double-pedal drumming of Athanasios “Zacky” Tsoukas and effervescent bass courtesy of Tim Rashid drive the enormous chorus forward with necessary gusto.

In light of the strength of the aforementioned tracks, it is difficult to add in a ‘but’. However, there has to be a ‘but’, because as I previously explained, ‘Kingslayer’ is not without flaws, some of them too considerable to remain uncovered.

For example, ‘Headstrong’ rubs me up the wrong way. The chorus is certainly bold but it just does very little for me, much like the verses which end up sounding too contrived and more than a little toe-curling, especially the more aggressive, spiky delivery from Marchewka. Aside from the brief neo-classical lead guitar opening and a banging riff or two, I also believe that ‘Children of the Sacred Path’ could have been better. Its more overt sleazy, bluesy hard rock trappings feel a touch out of place coming straight after the excellent, aforementioned opener.

‘Last Farewell’ is the album’s ballad and there are parts of it that are rather nice; the sound of the acoustic guitars and the accompanying lush synths are delightful but even though a few of the melodies are very nice and the vocal performances are strong, the song somehow fails to deliver in the way that it really should. It ends and immediately it is forgotten.

Meanwhile ‘Red Flag’, although decent and full of intent, doesn’t deliver the grandstand finale that I was hoping might end this record.

My overall feeling about ‘Kingslayer’ is that it could, and should, have been better. Almanac feels disappointing because of the musicians that are involved; with talent like this on display, ‘Kingslayer’ should provide us with a killer album, a real marker for the symphonic power metal genre. Instead, despite threatening much and occasionally delivering the goods, it is way too inconsistent and ends up being both frustrating and ultimately underwhelming. The disappointing truth is that the individuals sound better in their current or previous day jobs than they do in Almanac.

The Score Of Much Metal: 7

If you’ve enjoyed this review, you can check out my others from previous years and for 2017 right here:

2015 reviews
2016 reviews

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Moonspell – 1755
Cannibal Corpse – Red Before Black
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Impureza – La Caida De Tonatiuh
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Sorcerer – The Crowning of the Fire King
Daydream XI – The Circus of the Tattered and Torn
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