UK Progressive technical/death metal powerhouse (I had been referring to them as the next Opeth in passing) have decided to take on a slightly different approach as they focus on this “Illuminati” themed concept album, which is quite apparent from the album’s artwork alone. Now if you’ve been following along, you might remember my earlier reviews (say back in 2012) focusing heavily on bands that are against this secretive organization. Well, it is now 2015 and I have to say that my outlook on the world has changed quite a bit since that time. While I still believe in a global elite, I feel that the world is indeed “rudderless” as Alan Moore described, and even though there just might be several upon several of these secret societies out there, none of them actually have the same goals in mind, nor does any one group control enough power to manipulate the entire world. People disagree on too many things, so there will always be below-ground attempts to deviate from any established norm. Simply, while an “Illuminati” might control one country (let’s say, America for example) there are other groups with different intentions that might oversee China, for instance; like the Triads. Obviously, if the Illuminati tried to take out the Triads, they’d be easily overpowered and wiped out. Hence, The New World Order is nothing but a mere pipe dream.
That being said, I think I’m noticing a problem in the mastering that I feel would have made the entire record a great deal different. I just think that the leads are too low in the mix when the drums are blasting. Now, I know and am fully aware that when the kit is going full blast, it’s going to have a tendency to drown out the lead melodies. That’s understandable. I’m also aware that the vocals need to be louder in the mix than the rest of the instruments. But drowning out what I would consider to be some rather impressive backing leads definitely seems to take a toll on me. This doesn’t serve to be as much of as problem in some tracks, like the highly texturized “All Consuming 5:31” for example; but then we get into the album’s title track, where it can get to be a little bit of an issue. Additionally, we all know that death metal, even as technical and melodic as this (it perfectly encapsulates the mid-era Opeth and early Cynic influences) is still death metal and you’re going to have those thickly laid on growls that can sometimes serve to do a whole lot of nothing. “Kult Of The Orthodox” and the title cut (6:08) both seem to contain some of these bland vocal spots where frontman Craig Land might as well be singing about tile flooring. I suppose that Still Life and Blackwater Park are still firmly engrained into his vocal approach and even I’ll admit that I had no real idea as to what in the hell Mikael was singing about sometimes on those records without having to consult the lyrics myself. But with some tracks like “Beyond The Threshold” (5:25) I can actually sense real emotion in Craig Land’s vocals and he seems to feel the lyrics which come off rather meaningful. There are little guitar solos here and there on the track, but it’s still a very passionate piece remnant of November’s Doom. In any effect, the key players of this band are definitely Shoi Sen and Paul Nazarkardeh, a veritable twin guitar team which manage to flow their compositions in between Tom Atherton’s precise and proggy drumming antics. These two manage to literally shatter the sky with some of the unreal compositions on this album, which warrant a listen beyond measure. So even if the vocals aren’t quite amazing in some areas, the whole thing balances out due to the sheer attention to detail that the disc provides as a musical whole. In other words, Kingdom Of The Blind would sound just as good if it was an instrumental piece.
I’ll admit that I should be much happier with a record that offers more than one awesome guitar solo during nearly every song, and brings an immense amount of structure (even sometimes employing acoustics and world music) to every single piece offered here, but for some odd reason the disc has had a hard time growing on me. That being said, I don’t want this review to dissuade you from picking up Kingdom Of The Blind, nor do I want the band or the label to think that this is a bad review. In all honesty, I think that Kingdom Of The Blind takes some real time to absorb and you’ll really have to sit down and drop everything to appreciate it. To some, this could very well be album of the year and it very well should be. I’d definitely prefer it over the multitudes of core influenced offerings and trends that we’ll hear this year, as well as to many less-inspired efforts from bands of a similar style. I will admit that during this second listen, I’m quite enthralled by many of the pieces in employ here and perhaps I just didn’t quite catch all of it the first time around. There’s no doubt that I feel something special is here, but in some areas it appears muddled and just doesn’t seem to deliver as well as the EP release, of which I found quite mesmerizing. In the end, it’s a much heavier De Profundis disc with a higher quality production value and just as much melody and tinkering as we’d expect from them. There’s literally no doubt in my mind that really they gave it their all here and I recommend that you give it a listen, as you’re apt to enjoy it and I’m apt to find something really special in it, probably around the third or fourth listen. I will say that it seems to only get better with time, and that’s true with some of the best albums of all time. As to whether or not my opening grievances were merely nitpicks, well… that’s for you to decide.
(10 Tracks, 51:00)