Northern Kings - Rethroned 2.5/5

Reviewed: 2-6-09





Tracklist:

1. Rocky IV training montage
2. Wanted dead or alive
3. Kiss from a rose
4. A view to a kill
5. Nothing compares to U
6. My way
7. Strangelove
8. Take on me
9. I should be so lucky
10. Killer
11. Roisin Dubh: A rock legend
12. They don't care about us


When I reviewed Northern King's debut 'Reborn' I was completely charmed by the concept. I loved the idea of power metal versions of popular music with superb vocals. The concept generally won me over as a whole even though there were some covers that I thought could have been done differently (or maybe LESS differently is the right way to put it). Here with the 2nd CD 'Rethroned' it's basically the same concept. Only now, the novelty has worn off and I am finding the band's tendency to sometimes wander off a bit too far musically to be wearing thin. There is still fun to be had on this CD, and one track in particular is simply transcendent, but as a whole I am less charmed by this effort than the debut.

So how do you open a power metal covers project with a staple of superb singers? Why with an instrumental cover of course! The CD starts with "Training montage", which actually is a metallized version of the music played during the training sequences of Rocky IV. While I can confess I have probably watched Rocky IV a ludicrously high number of times considering how poor a movie is, I can't say that I would have been able to hum the training montage music on demand prior to hearing Northern Kings' 2nd CD. Having said that, the music seems to be a straightforward cover with just a little more guitar dominance. All in all it's a pleasant enough way start to things. This is followed by "Wanted dead or alive". This song encapsulates what I don't like about Northern Kings. I've never been a big fan of Bon Jovi (to put it mildly), but this is a good song that has pretty much become a staple of classic rock. I am all for making this cover version more heavy, but Northern Kings has transformed the music to such an extent that it's not even recognizable as having anything to do with the original song. Remove the vocals and you would be hard pressed to identify what song is being covered from the music alone. That's just changing things too much in my book, and it's why I don't care for this version.

There's another issue I have with this CD, and here it really relates to my personal tastes and musical background. Some of the song selections here have me scratching my head in puzzlement either because I think the songs are awful (and not improved much here) or because I simply don't know the originals at all (Hello, 2 Seal covers!). Sorry, but Sinead O'Connor never did much for me, and the Northern Kings cover of "Nothing compares to U" (which is actually covering the Prince cover of the song - oh my head hurts) doesn't make me like this song any more. One song that I thought had potential was the cover of "I should be so lucky" (originally) by Kylie Minogue. I am not familiar with the original (in fact all I know about Kylie was that she's an Australian pop star who appeared in Doctor Who... and don't get me started on how much I would kill for a quality metal version of that show's theme tune!), but the melodies had potential for a cool metal cover. Unfortunately, Northern Kings chose to do the vocals in a gruff monotone dirge. When some real singing comes in later, I actually enjoy the song. Again, some of Northern King's odd choices hurt the CD for me.

It's not all negative though. I find the covers of Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, and Thin Lizzy to be all enjoyable. Their cover of "Take on me" by A-Ha is fine, although I greatly prefer the speedier version by Vision Divine. But, much like the first Northern Kings CD, which had one masterpiece of a cover ("Hello" by Lionel Richie), this CD also contains a phenomenal track, and one I never thought I'd hear from a metal band. I am referring to "My way" by well.. the Chairman of the Board! I just revel in delighted fashion as I hear this souped up metal version of the Sinatra classic. Somehow I can be appalled at a power metal singer belting out the dulcet melodies of Frank while at the same time thinking it's maybe the greatest thing I've ever heard. "My way" is definitely the giant, completely awesome highlight of this 2nd Northern Kings CD. I have the same deep love for and joy from this track as I do for Sonata Arctica's blasphemous and wonderful cover of "Wind beneath my wings".

So, as a whole I don't enjoy this CD as much as the debut. Still, it's really following the same formula as the debut, and when it comes to covers, it's really a matter of personal taste. So, if you like metal versions of pop songs, definitely check this one out, as it may do more for you than for me. If there's a 3rd CD, I hope they stick a little closer in melody to the originals. I'll still be eager to hear more Northern Kings, even if I don't like this as much as the debut.



JOHN




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