REVIEW: Hail to the King – Dynasties (2013)

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Artist: Hail to the King

Album: Dynasties

 

As we examine history, we can clearly see that rule over a nation—monarchy in particular—has taken on many different forms. There are benevolent kings—King Suleiman the First of the Ottoman Empire, or King Louis XIV of France, for example—who made boundless reforms and allowed the arts and sciences in their respective nations. Without these kings, stagnancy and darkness would have reigned above all else. However, where there are kind and gifted rulers, there lies also the rule of the unequivocally tyrannical. As we peer through the veil of time, some rulers stand out above others. Kings like Edward I, who led a sweeping conquest of Wales and killed without reason and King Leopold II of Belgium, whose forced labor state resulted in the death of millions of Congolese—these dominate the highlight reel of maniacal monarchs. However, hard-hitting and heavier than sin deathcore act Hail to the King are in a different league altogether. These Ohioan obliterators use downtuned, oppressive breakdowns and slamming, spine-shattering riffs to create Dynasties, a debut album so destructive, there is no questioning their tyrannical reign over deathcore acts around the globe.

Just as an enraged Edward I’s conquest of Wales rapidly and soundly redistributed power across the English Isles, Hail to the King’s Dynasty wastes no time in going for the listener’s throat. “Sabretooth” kick starts the album with a ferocious, invasive groove that winds its way into the listener’s ears and stays lodged there for days—refusing to leave, ruling over their cognitive functions. “Sabretooth” continues with incessant, pummeling percussion and riffs which walk the line between a guttural, low-and-slow groove and a breakneck, lacerating pace. Riffs like these are found scattered throughout the album: “Feast and Famine” has an introduction which is equal parts catchy and catastrophic, while both instrumental tracks “Mako Eyes” and “Dynasties” are home to superb, furious fretwork which strikes awe into the heart of the listener. While the guitars are roaring and cutting at the listener’s skin, pressing and pushing at their ear drums, the percussion is hammering along with them, forcing the riffs into the listener’s head and cracking their ribs. “Feast and Famine” toggles pounding, punishing percussion with slicing, skin-opening guitar work and throbbing, bouncy bass which breaks the listener’s body whilst snapping their sanity.

However, it doesn’t end there.

Just as Leopold II ruled with an iron fist and forced tremendous labor upon the Congolese, Dynasties hammers and pounds away with fierce, unending dominion over the listener. Hail to the King use an entire arsenal of breakdowns—ranging from fast, choppy and jabbing to slow, sludgy and slaughterous—to break the listener in two. “Paper Streets” and “Gutshot” are two tracks which capitalize on this, as well as “Mana Leak,” which beat and bust away at the listener’s skull with a series of completely calamitous heaviness. All the time, while the instrumentation syncs up in a perfect maelstrom of low and deep, the vocals are, quite honestly, all over the map. There are screeching highs—aided by guest vocals Saud Ahmed of The Holy Guile—and low, guttural tones, with everything in between. Even if the listener could find monotony in the band’s reliance on chug-heavy sections (which are truthfully far from monotonous), there is no hint of samey-ness in Hail to the King’s vocal efforts. It is the band’s ability to combine break-neck speed, superior grooves and stunning brutality which makes Dynasties a whole different sort of ruler.

Even when tracks like “Mako Eyes” and “Dynasties” hint at a form of benevolence, reigning without the vocal crown that lies upon Hail to the King’s head, that is not the truth. As even without the dynamic vocal work, the two instrumental tracks launch just as fierce an attack on the listener. It is this aspect—the unending ferocity on Dynasties—which makes the release so subtly (and surreptitiously) brilliant. “Lunar Affliction” is able to flow from break-neck shredding and machine-gun drumming to liquid-cement levels of sludge at the blink of an eye, while “xStarlettax” oscillates so freely in both vocals and instrumentals that the track is almost hard to follow. However, even when the band is changing tempo, changing style and changing their sound, they never change the attack. There is a constant stranglehold—a persistent density—which suffocates the listener, muting them and forcing to wallow in the perfect bliss that is Dynasties.

There’s ruling with an iron fist, totalitarian dictatorship and complete despotism—and then there’s Hail to the King, a band which dominates so fiercely in their local (and global) scenes that there is no euphemism for it. Dynasties is technical, catchy, dynamic and, above all, heavy to the point where any subject of its rule has no choice but to bow to its reign, and pay complete respect.

 

10/10

For Fans Of: Manipulator, Molotov Solution, Silence, Subtract, Immoralist, Black Tongue

By: Connor Welsh