June 24, 2010

Music Review: Kingdom of Sorrow - Behind the Blackest Tears

It was two years ago that I was first confronted by Kingdom of Sorrow. Their self-titled debut was a great dose of sludgecore (I am still not sure if that is a real sub-genre or just something in my head). The combination of Jamey Jasta's Hatebreed-bred hardcore and Kirk Windstein's thick as mud sludge metal in Crowbar proved to be a potent one. That album was heavy, catchy, and absolutely rock solid. Considering it was a side project that took awhile to actually come together I never stopped to consider we would get any more music from them. Lo and behold, time was found, notes were written, instruments recorded, and a new album was born. Behind the Blackest Tears is their sophomore effort. Does it hold candle to their debut?

If there is any criticism I can toss at Behind the Blackest Tears it is that it does not bring the freshness that accompanied their debut. The self-titled album grabbed my ears and brought this fascinating side project into my full view. The two main men are legends with their respective bands, put them together and you have an unlikely combination that actually blend quite well. Now, you can take that minor criticism and toss it out the window. Sure, the freshness factor has worn off a bit, but that by no means implies a lack of quality or effort on this new set of tunes.

What becomes apparent right from the first track, "Enlightened to Extinction," is that they have been working together a little more. Consider the first, excellent, album a test run, this one sees a better melding of their respective strengths and at least a different approach by one of their number.

Who might that one be? Why Jamey Jasta, of course. As strong as his work is with Hatebreed is, you could never call him much of a singer. He is a charismatic shouter/barker/growler who knows how to write and connect with his audience. This new album sees him expanding a bit. Perhaps he realized that you need to do things a little differently with this type of music. It is not extremely different, mind you, but he uses some different intonations here. I daresay he injects a little more emotion than we have seen before. Whatever the case is, it works a little better than before.

On the other side of the coin, Kirk Windstein is, well, Kirk Windstein. Trademark raspiness, downtuned guitar, and otherworldly mastery of the sludgey riffs are in full effect. He is as good as ever. His supporting players may be a bit different, but the outcome is the same. I love these riffs. There is nothing quite like a slowed down heavy as a really heavy thing (credit to Strapping Young Lad's debut album title for that great phrase) riff that sounds like what it must feel like to run through wet cement.

Behind the Blackest Tears is a solid album that digs itself into your gray matter and continues to work its way ever deeper with each successive concussive track. I am helpless in the presence of Kingdom of Sorrow. They may not be my favorite band, they may not be the most original, but this combination of very different parts and the resulting genre mash is something special. Of course, again, I am something of a sucker for the heavy guitar riffs like these here. On that note, it may be time to dig out some Crowbar.

Songs of note: "Enlightened to Extinction," "Envision the Divide," "With Barely a Breath," and "Torchlight Procession."

Bottomline. This is the evolution of sludgecore. Heavy, aggressive, unapologetic, and very catchy. This is an infectious album. If you are a fan of either or the first album, this is a must. It is the sort of album you can put on at any time, put on any song, and just rock. Very good stuff.

Highly Recommended.

Disclosure: I received a promo copy for this review. It did not affect the outcome of the review.



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