Album Title: Kings In The North
Label: Frontiers Music
Date of Release: 18 June 2021
The sun is finally shining, it’s warm, and one might be forgiven for thinking that the summer is finally here. It has been a while coming and with the arrival of the sun, my inevitable melodic rock itch has returned. And the record of choice, following a recommendation from a kind reader of manofmuchmetal.com was this, ‘Kings In The North’ by Crowne. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
‘Kings In The North’ is a debut album but being a release via Frontiers, it will come as absolutely no surprise that Crowne is not comprised of a bunch of young, wide-eyed innocents looking to make it in the crowded world of melodic hard rock. No, this is a band that has been afforded the dreaded ‘supergroup’ tag from the label, in that Crowne is comprised of vocalist Alexander Strandell (Art Nation), guitarist/keyboardist/producer Jona Tee (H.E.A.T.), bassist John Levén (Europe), drummer Christian Lundqvist (The Poodles). The album also features Love Magnusson (Dynazty) providing guitar solos.
Frequent readers will know how I generally feel about these affairs – they can seem great on paper but don’t always create the final product that you might hope for. In my case, I love H.E.A.T., but I’m overall less keen on the other bands that are represented. So ‘Kings In The North’ could be great, or it might be a big fat failure.
Kicking off with the title track, there’s no disputing that the album begins in great fashion. The song is everything you’d want from a melodic hard rock song; it is up-tempo, hard rocking, full of muscular bravado and swagger, with a groovy, chunky riff right out of the gate to catch your attention. Alexander Strandell delivers his vocals with energy and commitment, whilst the rhythm section lays down a solid backbone. Keys flit in and out of the song nicely and the chorus, arguably the most important aspect of any melodic hard rock song is hook-laden and destined to sound great in the live arena. There is definitely a H.E.A.T. vibe to this opening salvo, and so it’s a great start.
Can you feel the ‘but’ coming? Yup, I thought so and you’d be right. There are further great songs nestled in and amongst the remaining ten, and ‘Kings In The North’ is a very commendable affair overall. As you’d expect, it is slick, it is professional, and I like the balance between the moments that veer more towards the metal, and the moments that share more in common with AOR. But overall, I have to be honest and say that the album doesn’t wow me in the way that a W.E.T. or H.E.A.T. record tends to do. Maybe they should have called themselves C.R.O.W.N.E. instead?!
On the plus side, there’s ‘Perceval’ which is another cool song with a strong chorus, epic-sounding, ever so slightly ballad-like in the way it opens up, but retaining too many hard rock elements to be considered a full-on ballad. ‘Sheraline’ makes it three from three at the start of the album. The constant repetition of the title within the lyrics does grate a little at times, but I like the melodies a lot, whilst the guitar tone used to belt out some engaging riffs is very nice indeed.
Unfortunately from there, things take a little bit of a downward turn. ‘Unbreakable’, for example, feels a little paint-by-numbers, lacking in originality, leading to me feeling like I’ve heard it all before. I haven’t of course, but that’s the distinct impression that I get. Same with ‘One In A Million’, too.
And again elsewhere. It would be unfair of me to suggest that the musicians are going through the motions, but there are precious few times after the opening trio ofsongs where I’m listening and I’m stopped dead in my tracks by a chorus, a riff, or a vocal line. Everything is where it should be, how you’d ideally want it, aided by a good production and solid musicianship. But it all just lacks a certain amount of inspiration, at least to these ears in any case.
‘Set Me Free’ is a little more interesting, complete with keyboard solo and a greater emphasis on the synths throughout. It leads to something that feels brighter and breezier and overall, more engaging. ‘Mad World’ is the other track I’d pick out too. It feels a bit darker in tone, more cinematic with sampled sounds of the city streets. The chorus is one of the most satisfying on the album and it’s topped off by a blazing solo.
What started off so positively, has ended on a bit of a bum note I’m afraid. When done well, I love melodic hard rock – the adrenaline it provides, the hit of the feel-good factor it can deliver. As decent as Crowne are, and their debut ‘Kings In The North’ is, I find that I am a tad disappointed and as such, would only really recommend this release if you’re a diehard fan of the genre or of any of the musicians involved. Even then, you might not enjoy it quite as much as you hoped.
The Score of Much Metal: 78%
Further reviews from 2021:
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: