Kings Among Men
29th August 2014 – Napalm Records
01. March of Victory
02. Rise to Power
03. Heroes Among Us
04. A Gathering of Kings
05. Maiden’s Call
06. Braving the Storm
07. On the Eve of Battle (intro)
08. Freedom and Salvation
09. Dawn of Vengeance
10. Moonlit Skies and Bloody Tides
Ensiferum meets Rhapsody of Fire, powered up 1000%; that’s how I’d describe Ontarian folk power metal horde Crimson Shadows. Their sound has been forged in fire for massive amounts of cheesy, glorious fun, battle, and a spot of celebratory drinking. Their first album Glory on the Battlefield, as well as follow up EP Sails of Destiny, caught the attention of Napalm Records who signed the band in April, and thus, the release of their second full length album Kings Among Men – their major label debut – was prophesied.
And right away, chills go down spines, fists go into the air, and a power metal pose is struck. The record is a massively enjoyable effort from the young Canadian band. Intro “March of Victory” segues into “Rise To Power”, a solid-enough number, but the album really finds its groove with the battle ready “Heroes Among Us”, and it refuses to relent from there. The guitar work is truly admirable; it’s reminiscent of Judas Priest with a shit-tonne more sword-and-sorcery swagger. Perhaps the best showcase track for the axework is “Maiden’s Call”, which features some intense soloing and dual lead work from guitarists Ryan Hofing and Greg Rounding.
Equally as excellent are the vocals. The growls are passionate, with plenty of fire in the delivery, and the cleans have an incredible sense of pure, unrestrained joy and freedom to them. “A Gathering of Kings” is a fantastic example, as is “Freedom and Salvation”. The former, along with mid-album track “Braving the Storm”, are both unrelenting in their dual guitar lead attack, combining with excellent use of both clean and growled vocals – it’s a complete package.
Kings Among Men also includes re-recorded material from their Sails of Destiny. These older songs seem infused with a new life and urgency; “Freedom and Salvation” is marvellous – a song to truly belt out at Wacken – and the epic “Moonlit Skies and Bloody Tides” is exactly what a power metal epic should be: melodic, powerful, evocative, and admirably over the top.
The production and mixing on Kings Among Men is well handled; the mix sounds very deep and wide, although there is a bit of fighting between the guitar leads and the clean vocals at times, with the guitar finding itself overshadowed a bit – but since the vocals take precedence, this is not as big a problem as it could have been. The drum sound is crisp and clear, but not overbearing, and the guitar tone is bright and smooth.
Vancouver’s Unleash The Archers have given Canada one internationally known power metal band, and Crimson Shadows should be the next. This album should form the basis of a solid reputation for the cheesy melodies and fist-raising guitar work at which this band excel. Kings Among Men is an electrifying mix of truly glorious Canadian-made power metal, and over-the-top guitar-oriented folk metal. With its excellent sonic depth and solid and catchy song-writing, this is definitely an album to raise your ale to.
Is it entirely new? No, but who the fuck cares? Crimson Shadows’ rise to power and march to victory is a boatload of true glorious fun.
Favourite songs: “Freedom and Salvation” “Braving the Storm” “A Gathering Of Kings”