Northern Kings - Reborn 3.5/5

Reviewed: 12-7-07





Tracklist:

1. Don't stop believin'
2. We don't need another hero
3. Broken wings
4. Rebel yell
5. Ashes to ashes
6. Fallen on hard times
7. I just died in your arms
8. Sledgehammer
9. Don't bring me down
10. In the air tonight
11. Creep
12. Hello
13. Brothers in arms


Northern Kings is a project tailor made for me. I love 80s pop music, and I love hearing metal covers of popular music. Northern Kings is a band made up of power metal "all-star" singers, and the CD is a collection of metallized pop covers. The 4 singers in question are Marco Hietala from Tarot/Nightwish, Tony Kakko from Sonata Arctica, JP Leppäluoto from Charon and J Ahola from Teräsbetoni. I am not familiar with the latter 2 so it's difficult for me to distinguish them. The result is a fun, at times excellent, and at times disappointing collection. Your enjoyment of the CD ultimately comes down to if you like these singers, like the idea of the CD, like their interpretations of the songs, and possibly if you like the original songs themselves. This definitely has an odd array of pop/rock songs which are pretty broad in sound.

I knew immediately I had to hear this CD when I read the opening track was "Don't stop believin'" from Journey. To put it mildly, I love Journey. I have long been astounded metal bands haven't chosen to cover them before (that I know of). So it was with great excitement that I began spinning this CD. As for this song, I probably would have loved it if I wasn't such a fan of the original, but I admit to being disappointed. My problem is that they have changed the song so much that other than the lyrics and some of the vocal melodies, it really doesn't sound like the original. Having said that, the result is a pretty killer symphonic metal song in its own right. I am sure I would love this if I wasn't hoping for a more faithful version.

Next up is "We don't need another hero" by Tina Turner which is shockingly good. I never had any love of the original, but this is pretty solid. It's basically another beefed up symphonic metal version but it's a little more faithful to the original. "Rebel yell" seems like a natural for a metal band to cover, but Northern Kings' interpretation is shocking. Eschewing the fast pace of the original, they instead turn it into a grand, epic doomy track. While I probably wouldn't go this route, I can't deny how cool this sounds. It does drag on a little too long at over 7 minutes though. "I just died in your arms" by Cutting Crew is another that has melodies that make it fit right in with a metal version. Oddly enough they give this the power ballad treatment, which I find disappointing.

An unexpected (and delightful) surprise is Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer". I love the heavy version of the opening melodies. After that it turns into a kind of peppy, bouncy metal track. This is another one that I think diverges a bit musically, but is a fun interpretation. The biggest disappointment for me is Phil Collins' "In the air tonight". To be fair, this is a classic song that I have a hard time figuring out how I would do a metal version of myself. The vocals are faithful to the original's vocal melodies with moody keyboards and the odd quick hits from guitars, bass and drums. Oddly enough, they don't build to the song's climax (and the most well known drum lick ever) in any way, which I find to be foolish. I do like the heavier finish where the "I can feel it..." line is repeated. The CD's real shocker is how completely, unbelievably awesome their version of Lionel Richie's "Hello" is! I fondly remember this ballad from when I was quite young, and this heavy version is simply fantastic. The chorus features a triumphant guitar gallop that truly makes this song superb. This is easily the highlight of the CD for me.

All in all this CD is quite good, even if some of the versions are disappointing for one reason or another. As a whole, the CD is a quality production. All of the vocalists sound good and the musicianship is top notch - mostly symphonic power metal in style. Of course, not all fans will embrace this concept. I for one hope we get a follow-up!



JOHN




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