Album Review: King's Eden - The Era of The Youth

Review by Mark Laffin

It seems to me that rock music can be divided into two main camps. Let’s set aside the idea of the many sub-genres of rock that have emerged over the decades and consider this. Firstly, there are the rock bands that tend to focus on creating vast soundscapes of textured sounds and countless sonic nuances, which are all meticulously arranged and extensively produced. Let’s call these the progressive minded artists. On the other hand, we have bands that forgo the subtle details and attempt to exploit the very raw and primal nature of rock music. Absent is the careful deliberation on tones and moods, and the core element of their sound becomes the byproduct of the amps turned up to 10 and the clamorous racket of the drum kit. These bands care less about progressing their music to higher art form, and more about targeting the true fundamentals of rock ‘n roll. Halifax’s own Kings Eden falls into this latter category.

To begin with, I really like what this band is going for with their debut offering, The Era of The Youth. What we get here is a stripped down, back to basics, bluesy slab of garage rock from a power trio of very feisty women. This is not exactly The Black Keys. This is much heavier and sludgier. This is more In Utero era Nirvana meets PJ Harvey. A little bit more Sleater-Kinney, if you will. Lead singer/guitarist Heather Doran displays a profoundly impressive wail over a barnstorm of dirty, modal guitar riffs and raging power chords. While this collection of songs may not exude originality, it’s all mostly made up with earnestness, sincerity and an unquestionable vitality. It’s all actually very convincing. So convincing in fact, you can almost smell the paint fumes and greasy toolboxes in the ambiance of it all.

“Calling All Liars” has the album hitting the ground running, with its urgent sounding blues-heavy rock riff that seems to borrow from the Danko Jones catalog, and then a melodic power-chorded chorus. The song is also graciously highlighted by a bluesy breakdown in the middle of the song. “Wasted Time” has a very Alice In Chains sounding bass intro that makes way for a very simple, yet effective guitar riff. The chorus is the high point, with it’s pleasingly off-time staccato groove. The rest of the songs don’t stray too much from this formula, with the exception of “Crumbling Castles”. This here is a bit of an oddity which centers itself on a delicate arpeggiated acoustic guitar passage, complimented by a somber sounding cello melody. Doran’s vocal here offers a moody, melancholic dirge that makes for a welcome change of pace from the chaos.

What I like the most about this record is the overall ethos of it all. I really appreciate and admire where they are going with this sound, where the elemental essence is just the noisy crunch of the guitar, the guttural bass, and the unrelenting din of the drums. Not to mention the petulant, yet harmonious vocals molding the lyrical landscape with laments of animosity, resentment and dispirit. In other words, the best thing about this album is really the sum of its parts. One constructive criticism I can possibly offer is that some the grooves could be a little stronger. Any given song here on its own, doesn’t really have a particularly strong hook. I get the idea that this isn’t intended to be hook-heavy music, however it did take me a good few listens for this album to really grow on me, because apart from the overall charm in its simplicity and indelicacy, there’s little to grab the listener in a big way.

For the most part, I would consider this album a success. The band seems to have a natural chemistry that is quite audible in the recording. Although I don’t find that any one specific song stands out, the entire album seems to work as a single unit. The band seems to have a unified vision and unyielding focus on creating a truly authentic sound, which although not completely unique, they’re trying to claim as their own anyway. The music is immediate, abrasive, and is loaded with plenty of vitriol and staunch resolve. I’ve never had the privilege of seeing this band live, but these songs have me wanting to, and this is a sign of doing something right.


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