Last Kingdom – Chronicles Of The North
Chronicles Of The North
One of Europe’s chief exports is melodic, feel-good power metal, and so many bands have tried their hands at least briefly at it that there’s nothing remarkable at all about one more entry. Tell me then, how did a heretofore unknown Swedish band sounding reminiscent of ReinXeed and early Power Quest find itself signed to Limb music, dropping a debut record right under our collective noses?
Well, the answer seems simple enough, in the case of Last Kingdom: hard work, practice, and a whole lot of passion. To be completely fair, Chronicles Of The North doesn’t bring anything new to the table: it’s a predominantly speedy, occasionally redundant, lyrically unexceptional, and heavily chorus-centric piece of work that may come off as a bit long-winded and isn’t going to win over any of the typically power-metal scorning crowd. So what have these guys got that a dozen unsigned bands don’t?
Well, let me tell you, despite the apparent knocks I’ve directed at Last Kingdom, this release is a breath of fresh air for those of us who enjoy our speedy, melodic, and uplifting Scandinavian power metal. Last Kingdom’s weapons are consistency, melody, and an aura of hope and perseverance. Already having run this album through seven or eight times, I’m not sick of anything, and I’ll go on listening to it well after having reviewed it. Strong songs like “Daylight Retreats” and “End Of Life” are as good as any flagship power metal band is putting out these days. Despite being a bit rough-hewn in places, Chronicles Of The North is memorable and consistently strong.
Vocalist Stefan Jacobsen will be a sticking point for some. While he has a good range and performs a few occasional harsh vocals quite well, it is his screams that will divide. I find them somewhat impressive, but I can see where some listeners might think of them as grating. He also slides about a bit in a manner that I occasionally find frustrating when following along. While the band is probably passionate about their lyrics, the typical themes of heaven, hell, and heroes will fall on some deaf ears, probably exacerbating some listeners’ dislike of the album as a whole.
And let them dislike. I for one don’t require anyone’s approval to dig this album quite thoroughly. That a hard-working power metal band has succeeding in releasing a quality debut on a well-known label encourages me considerably. The cd booklet proclaims Chronicles Of The North to be a “very respectable album”, nothing more, and nothing less. I’ll back them up on that claim any day. The cool, fresh atmosphere of Scandinavia is bundled spiritedly within the well-produced and composed guitar and keyboard work, and the CD’s great artwork makes for a very appealing package. Fans of speedy and ultra-melodic power metal should hear this as soon as possible!
Dan’s Rating: 3.75 out of 5