It’s felt like more than two years since Flint, Michigan’s well-renowned self-confessed bruisers of all things agnostic and painful first hit the metal world with their scarred debut effort, “Memoirs of a Murderer”. Sure, it upset the vast majority of metalheads upon arrival, but from the sheer street poetry and scathing musicianship, it’s clear that the album was only ever supposed to display King 810’s stab at immortality-and not a mere pandering to the masses. Be that as it may, it wasn’t a very successful album from a creative standpoint. The songs were either wholly reliant on aping Slipknot’s innovative musical menace or soulful narratives which never amounted to a climax. And let’s not forget how the album continually disappointed when it shouldn’t have-on the distinctive few highlights the band offered, when all of a sudden they decided to move on to a more forgettable sound.
Well, this year sees King 810’s surprising return in sophomore effort “La Petite Mort or a Conversation with God”. A burning question riddles in the mind: Is it any better than its predecessor and does it represent any maturity? Well, kinda. The album contains the same songwriting pattern as its predecessor: David Gunn-penned narratives based on emotional turmoil, nu-metal rhythms bouncing around as joyously as Korn’s debut record and a few half-baked albeit heartfelt ballads to siphon off the recording. But what’s new here is the layout of songs. As you may suspect from the album title’s weird wording, it seems the record is split into two halves. “La Petite Mort” is basically more of what we have come to expect from King 810, continuing the Slipknot-inspired metal sound and spitting insults left, right and centre as if it was nothing. Its successor, “A Conversation with God” however, is more ambient, silent, and empty, for want of better adjectives. It seems so far removed from the album’s first half that it’s almost like listening to a different band. Then again, like I have said before, King 810 displayed remnants of this idea in their debut.
Unfortunately, the delivery on King 810’s sophomore effort leaves so much to be desired. The pros and cons weighing against each other point towards an album which is a complete and utter mess, and very few of its songs demonstrate any sense of direction or maturity. After the menacing intro which transcends between Gunn’s violent, tense and strained narrative voice and downtuned riff work, the problems already begin to show. It’s really because of the songwriting that songs such as ‘Alpha and Omega’ and ‘Vendettas’ simply don’t offer anything of interest at all. Whereas the former of these aforementioned tracks seems to amount to nothing in its seeming ambition to spit out the words “BITCH” at the turn of every verse and chorus, the latter merely treads along a well-trodden path, constantly threatening to explode in a feverish manner but never actually following through. Let’s not forget also, that David Gunn’s well-worn seething narrative on King 810’s debut really didn’t work: So why the hell would it work here (It really doesn’t, in case you’re wondering)? What possessed the band to try these tried-and-tested-but-failed formulas out again and expect different results? Even the lengthiest track of the record, the partial title track which runs at eight minutes in length, doesn’t live up to any bold expectations put forth by its’ maker’s resolute fanbase. Instead, it reminds us all how King 810 have once again failed to truly connect their musicianship to their hard-worn home background.
Thankfully the album begins to show some glimmers of hope in the second half, the more ambient, sentient version of King 810’s musical palette. Most of the songs in this section are either influenced by a weird, artsy form of lounge jazz or almost fully blown classical compositions, offering King 810’s stab at creating a soundtrack to an Oscar-winning movie. None of these songs demonstrate the impression of that latter sound, but at least the band put some effort into trying. ‘Black Swan’ hinted at this apparent evolution with its succinctly dulcet tones and screeching violin usage, but it isn’t until the melancholic tone of ‘I ain’t Goin’ Back Again’ that the band fully represent their softer, less angst-ridden side. The compositions here are full of flavour, and especially with ‘Me & Maxine’, Gunn’s elaborate attempt at laying all of his romanticised guts onto the record player for all to witness. This song in particular demonstrates a swift transition from monotonous ambience to a quirkier, more prominent sound-simplistic jazz rhythms, lilting female vocals and an almost passionate narrative interlude by David Gunn himself which actually blows most of the rest of the album out of the water. Unfortunately, these glimmers of hope are quashed when the album continues to remind everyone how inconsistent King 810 have proven to be: The final two songs go nowhere at all and it simply gives the impression of a band trying to stretch a run-time unnecessarily beyond a solitary hour.
Alas, “La Petite Mort or a Conversation with God” is as average and frustrating as its predecessor, but in different ways. Whereas “Memoirs of a Murderer” simply a demonstrated a lack of maturity and clarity in all of its angst-ridden pieces, “La Petite Mort” demonstrates a stab at trying to overcome the past musical mistakes, and sadly fails. Whilst there are certainly moments of greatness here (few and far between, and all of them remain in the album’s more versatile second half), the great mammoth-sized bulk of this hour-long effort leaves the listener wanting so much more than what they thought they were going to get before pressing play. King 810 undoubtedly have demons to spurn forth through the medium of artistic integrity, but they haven’t attended to it in the right way-on their debut or their sophomore effort. Let’s hope album number three (if there is to be a third) makes a big step forwards.
Released: September 16th, 2016.
- Heavy Lies the Crown
- Alpha and Omega
- Give My People Back
- Black Swan
- The Trauma Model
- La Petite Mort
- I ain’t Goin’ Back Again
- War Time
- Life’s Not Enough
- Me & Maxine
- Wolves Run Together
- A Conversation with God