Last Kingdom - Chronicles of the north 3.5/5
1. Chronicles of the north
2. Warrior kings
3. Daylight retreats
4. Silver moon
5. The world is dying
6. End of life
Sweden’s Last Kingdom is a relatively new power metal band, formed in around 2004-2005 and have released 2 demo’s, one in 2007 and the other in 2009. A promising band with talented musicians, Last Kingdom in their endeavours to grow their support base, has opened for bands like Dragonland and Wolf in their local Gothenburg area. Finding good fortune by being signed by Limb Music, the band was now able to record and release their debut CD, entitled ‘Chronicles of the north’.
Last Kingdom is quite a large band, containing a mammoth 7 members; however there were just 3 permanent members and 2 session members to help fill the gaps at the time of recording the CD. At the time of recording ‘Chronicles of the north’ the band consisted of bassist Jimmy Malmenlid, keyboardist Stefan Malmenlid and vocalist Stefan Jacobsen; while the session members were drummer Andreas Alme and guitarist Freddy Oloffson. Since the recording and release of the CD, Last Kingdom have brought on 4 new members – drummer Sebastian Lopez, guitarists Johan Olofsson and David Stockman and also backing vocalist Therese Gunnarson.
Being with Limb Music is a perfect marriage for Last Kingdom and the particular power metal they play. It’s best described as the fantasy-based side of power metal, with flurries of guitar riffs, generous lashings of keyboards, speed drumming and soaring high vocals that could be heard in Valhalla. You know the style I’m talking about, Last Kingdom easily fits into the mould previously pursued by bands like Holy Knights, Black Majesty, Thy Majestie, and (early) Dragonland, Iron Fire, Heavenly, Freedom Call, Nocturnal Rites, Sonata Arctica, Celesty, Power Quest, Hammerfall and Dragonforce. Have a better understanding now? Great...
Obviously this type of fantasy-based power metal is far from original and ‘Chronicles of the north’ is not the exception to that rule – everything on the CD is something you’ve heard before. So based on that, what would make you stand up and notice what ‘Chronicles of the north’ has to offer? Strong songwriting, a vocalist you want to listen to, nice harmonies and skilled musicianship would be the first things that come to mind; and luckily this CD contains all those.
The CD starts with a flurry, like warrior on the charge with their sword held high; with the title track “Chronicles of the north”. With a speedy galloping riff and double-bass pummelling, the title track is like any other fantasy-based speed/power metal track you’ve heard, with vocalist Stefan Jacobsen delivering with power and might. With choirs from the backing vocalists joining in the fray, all in different pitches and volume, the track is very melodic and highly charged. The high tempo and fantasy style theme continues into the 2nd track, “Warrior kings” (which sounds quite similar to early Dragonland), featuring an epic and bombastic feel, saturated keyboards and piercing high vocals in parts from Jacobsen, who would have broken a few glasses in his time. Jacobsen does have a fantastic range and his voice is quite melodic and emotional. Powerful too, as Jacobsen can sing high into the heavens, yet can also deliver a nice heavy growl or 2 when needed.
The tempo slows down on the 3rd track “Daylight retreats”, a melodic but strong mid-paced grinder featuring poignant and impressive guitar riffs and gruffer, darker vocals from Jacobsen, to go along with his typical mid-high pitched vocals. One of the biggest highlights on the CD is “Silver moon” (reminding me of early Celesty and Sonata Arctica), which is an energetic track similar to the opening 2 songs. What makes it so good is that it’s so damn catchy, especially the anthem-styled choired chorus, the spirited and creative keyboards, the spectacular double-bass pummelling on the drums, and the well crafted guitar solo in the middle; this track has it all. Other tracks that will get your heart rate rising and wanting to charge into battle wielding a large axe include the simple but effective “End of life”, the emotional and melodic “Abandoned” and the scintillatingly swift CD closer, “Lost”.
I often forget that ‘Chronicles of the north’ is Last Kingdom’s debut release, considering the quality of the CD is fairly high and that’s a plus for the band with grabbing fans who enjoy this style of power metal. It also gives anticipation for future releases. My only gripe (which does prove that this is a debut after all), is that the CD is a bit inconsistent, with some songs not quite hitting the mark, or taking off, or getting out of first gear; whichever you prefer. That really comes down to experience and having the right cattle within the band. Now that the line-up includes 4 new members, I am eager to see how well the band gels together and what they can produce for the next CD.
Overall, ‘Chronicles of the north’ is an above average debut that will appeal to the bands I mentioned earlier in this review, although it’s pretty much straightforward and everything that you’ve heard before in that particular fantasy-based power metal genre. Raise your swords, high, metal brethren; it’s time for another battle, Last Kingdom style...
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