I may be getting a little soft in my old age.
I was never a King Diamond guy. I know: sacrilege, right? Thing is the falsetto just never clicked for me. There are only a few lead vocalists that can pull it off, and in my opinion, King was not one of them. The fact that he surrounded himself with such great musicians and wrote such cool metal was always a tasty carrot, but I am a creature of my own preferences—as are we all—so the pain of the vocal stick was just too much.
This is not, of course, a King Diamond apologetic, but a review of an entirely other band. Sacral Rage cannot be considered without referencing King, though, simply because the vocalist is obviously taking cues from the Diamonded One. He also manages to pull a few early Geddy Lee and Joey Belladonna moments into his performance, but it is almost excessively King-worship from start to finish. And while a younger me might have dismissed the band as A) too derivative and B) essentially unlistenable, my newfound tolerance plays its ugly/lovely hand here in a heavy way.
This is because the band itself is not simply Diamond-Lite. The musical aspect alone is exceedingly cool thrash/power/tech metal that demands to be taken seriously. These are talented and thoughtful shredders, at once harking back to the times of the first few Voivods, Megadeths, and yes, Them-era King. They possess a clarity that is both admirable and sort of magical, considering how enthusiastically they play. The solos are gorgeous, the rhythm section is top-notch and the riffing is glorious.
An incredibly crisp production lends their sound a modern-yet-retro vibe and renders it very listenable. The somewhat magnificent riffing and time-changing the band engages in never gets lost in a deep mix, yet it remains just tough and gritty enough to stay exciting and dangerous.
The songs themselves are wickedly enticing and even a little goofy…but not in the goofy sense. They are playful, but also grounded in what makes metal important to us. Like the best Cradle of Filth, there is a tongue-in-cheek throughout this set, but not to the degree that would make it Tenacious D. It has to do with love, not mockery. And that is all the difference in the world. If “Necropia” took itself too seriously this would sound like a parody. But it doesn’t, and so it finds that sweet spot between menace and insipidity. And that spot is truly sweet.
The subject matter is science fiction, and while I have no lyrics to look over, it has to do with a being traveling space and time in search of eternal life. And, judging by the album cover, he and his crew of Elric, Grey Mouser and Space Tonto are very much tackling Intergalactic Orcs with big Fallout hammers for control of a planet of light, round wholesomeness and dark, spiky evilness.
I’m into it.
Bottom Line: this is tech/power/thrash of high quality, led by a singer with a dark King Diamond fetish, for better or worse, and toes the line between hokey and awesome exactly as a metal record should. It’s fun, it’s impressive and it probably belongs in your collection—even if, as with myself, Kingness has historically been a negative factor. Give this a bash. I suspect you will feel as rewarded as I do.
Meanwhile, if this is getting soft, maybe soft is OK.