Album Review: To Kill a King – To Kill a King

By on Monday, 2nd March 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

To Kill A King album coverTo Kill a King are a band who believe in taking advantage of an opportune moment. At the end of 2014, after a full year of touring and with the release of their EP ‘Exit Pursued by a Bear’, the London-based group found themselves at bit of a crossroads. They begin 2015 with a new LP, the self-titled ‘To Kill a King’ that, while not a debut album, marks a new beginning for the band in more ways than one.

The band initially self-released their real debut album, 2013’s ‘Cannibals With Cutlery’, but their subsequent signing with Xtra Mile Recordings allowed both a full re-release of that album and expanded touring opportunities that spread their music to a much wider audience. As frontman Ralph Pelleymounter says in the press release for ‘To Kill a King’, the band wrote the new album with a bright future in mind. “On reflection, the first album does sound like a debut. This (new album) is the band coming into its stride.” And these are songs sound designed to be played on a bigger stage.

Their ambitions might have been thwarted by the recent departure of bass player Josh Platman, who announced on the 10th of February that he was leaving the band for personal reasons. But seemingly undaunted, the remaining members of To Kill A King (Pelleymounter, Grant McNeill on electric guitar, Ben Jackson on synth and keys and Josh Taffel on drums) have filled Platman’s slot with bassist Peter Hakola and forged ahead with the album release as well as their scheduled March headline dates in Europe and the UK. (Find a full listing of live shows on the band’s Web site.)

With a firmly established “carpe diem” mentality, the band have managed to avoid the curse of the sophomore album with ‘To Kill a King’, continuing their evolution away from the seminal folk rock sound that led to their early association with Communion Records. The songs on this album are dynamically expansive but dramatically concise, bursting at the seams with compelling choruses and striking instrumental bridges. The 11 tracks play through at a remarkably fast pace, smoothly shifting gears between anthemic refrains and quieter moments without ever losing their sense of forward momentum.

Opening track ‘Compare Scars’ moves quickly from a sparse and introspective introduction to the driving pulse and power chords of the chorus “I know it’s hard when they’re calling your name / but keep your head straight, keep your head straight”. Similarly, the LP’s lead single ‘Love Is Not Control’ belies its own title with an anxiously quick tempo and tense, repeated lyrical clips.

Pelleymounter’s expressive baritone is highlighted on standout track ‘Oh My Love’, which I described previously in my review of the ‘Exit, Pursued by a Bear’ EP. He demonstrates a solid falsetto in ‘The Chancer’ (streaming below), where the relentless intensity of the album backs off for a brief moment with the distantly echoed chorus “and the beat goes on my friends / life’s endless drum”. The bass groove and guitar riff of ‘Grace at a Party’ ratchet up the drama again as Pelleymounter sings about unexpectedly running into an ex-lover.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/_xwKin_mNt8[/youtube]

Penultimate track ‘World of Joy (A List of Things to Do)’ and brief final clip ‘Today’ brought a surprised smile to my face with their disarmingly buoyant instrumental arrangements and light-hearted lyrics. Focusing once again on the theme of living in the present moment, To Kill a King have here, and on the album as a whole, fully realized their intention “to be more optimistic and more life-affirming”. The bold intensity and clear musicality of ‘To Kill A King’ should give them even more reason to feel optimistic about their progress as a band and the direction they’ve chosen to take.

8.5/10

‘To Kill A King’ is out today on Xtra Mile Recordings. Just after the release, the band will begin a run of live dates in the UK.

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