“Hey, how are you? Would you like to check out our album? We have free download cards right here and they’re also a sticker!”
Well, that just can’t be right I thought to myself, approaching Hail to the King’s merchandise stand at the Pontiac, Michigan date of Miss May I and For the Fallen Dreams’ Up Close and Personal tour—featuring these fine gentlemen from Dayton, Ohio. Somehow I had pictured the sinister souls who crafted the gut-wrenchingly heavy and bodaciously groovy Dynasties to be…well, not quite so nice.
“Oh! You’re Connor, right?” asked wordsmith and vocals Kody Hale. “It’s cool to finally meet you!”
This is weird.
However, after spending the next forty five minutes shooting the shit with these five fine gents about everything from Drew Creager’s drum kit, to label interests and the direction of their upcoming EP Nomicon, I came to the understanding that Hail to the King—Hale especially—weren’t quite as soulless as their music would have the listener think. Until their live set began.
Performing in an incredibly intimate (see: tiny) venue on a stage smaller than the headlining band’s reputation, it wasn’t immediately clear what kind of show Hail to the King would be able to provide. However, thirty seconds into their set, no matter what my expectations were, they were shattered. Black-eyed and boisterous, Hale let loose with every range of shout, scream, bellow and growl heard throughout Dynasties with remarkable clarity and accuracy. Meanwhile, the fretwork was top-notch and absolutely true to the quality of the album. Darick Faul and Austin Shock were at the very top of their game, playing with exhilarating energy and focus, even in spite of the small, cramped stage. Right there with them was Zach McDermott on the bass, bouncing and grooving with more energy and power than the energizer bunny. Backing them all, Drew Creager pounded and pummeled away with a battery of punishing percussion that—and this is coming from a shrewd and critical drummer myself—was simply perfect. The bass drum had a hefty, cannon-like feel, while maintaining speed and precision—and the cymbal work was neither too splashy, nor under-micd and quiet. The dynamics and balance between sound and stage presence brought by Hail to the King was nothing short of perfect.
Don’t just take my word for it though—while I was meandering about the band’s merchandise stand and helping with their instrument breakdown after their set, I lost count of the number of people who—somehow—hadn’t heard of the band and were shocked by their performance. That is perhaps the simplest way to describe how resoundingly powerful and awe-inspiringly immaculate Hail to the King’s performance was: as Ohioans, they were able to, on their first two-date trip into Michigan, make fans and not enemies. That is truly something capable of crowning them as kings of the live performance—kings worth hailing to.