Waco/Austin’s Modern Day Kings is a band that was put on my radar by a great friend of mine, Dani Blizzard (Autumn Stay) and they immediately impressed me with their single “If I May.” This single gave me chills with how well put together it was, from the atmosphere and lyrics to clean vocalist Michael Thatcher, as well as unclean vocalist Adam James Richards’ amazing prowess in what they do. It quickly became one of my favorite songs and I was fortunate enough to converse with Adam, and MDK’s manager (Skylar Harpole, True Initiative Management) several times before scoring a chance to finally work with them. Little did I know that their new EP, Navigator, would be something I couldn’t have dreamed of expecting in a million years. To say that you can’t pigeon-hole these guys into one genre is an understatement. While their roots are clearly set in the metalcore genre, they’ve got influences from genres anywhere from R&B to death metal. Every song has something different to offer, no two songs are the same and every song keeps you on your toes.
The EP opens up with a very atmospheric, electronic and poppy track called “Ceremony.” guitarist/clean vocalist Michael Thatcher gives the listeners chills with his smooth, R&B-like vocal style, as his voice is set in many different layers making it feel like something so much bigger than you’d expect. It also gives you an idea of his vocal range but this is only the tip of the iceberg. As “Ceremony” comes to a close and the samples fade in, guitarists Will Bishnow and Michael Thatcher take center stage, giving you some simplistic but effective riffs. The beauty of Thatcher’s voice fades, as Richards hits the listener with an impressive range of screams, during the first verse of the title track “Navigator.” While many have come to expect nothing but breakdowns and cheesy lyrics in this genre, they greatly defy this expectation and leave you in awe. The pre-chorus, as well as the chorus, have a fun electronic section and layered vocals as well. The use of vocal glitching is something that I’ve come to despise in the genre, as it gets used so much in the wrong ways and ruins the track… however, the minimal use in this track is a welcome addition to an incredible arrangement. The theme this track tackles is one of finding your own path in life and not pretending to be someone you’re not. It’s a very uplifting and meaningful track that has a lot of cool things added into it that, until now, I haven’t really heard executed effectively.
My head spun when I heard “Blind Direction,” which hits you hard with a thrashy, death metal-esque intro, including a bone-chilling drawn-out scream from Richards. This track does a better job of showcasing how diverse Richards is as a vocalist and, as you have already heard by this point, also shows how many influences the band has. During the verses, Richards switches between some near-guttural lows and some incredibly powerful mids, before Thatcher comes in and hits you with that smooth-as-honey clean voice again. I can only imagine how hard this track must have been hard to write, musically, because it’s all over the place and I can imagine that the band, especially drummer Mark Griffor and bassist Aaron Wagner, had one hell of a challenge with this one due to the many changes in pace. All I can say is that they did a great job with it and I commend them for taking such a bold leap with this track.
“Darkened Sea” is another track that really threw me for a loop. I even had to check my player to see if I was listening to the same band! That’s the beauty of MDK, they can hit you with so many different elements that you’re not even sure you’re listening to them. This track does a much better job at showcasing how well Richards has perfected his low screams, as he hits you with volley after volley during the first verse, while the musical aspect begins with a Djent-like ambience. To begin with, it almost sounds like something that you’d hear from a band like Veil of Maya or Born of Osiris. It switches up and goes a traditional metalcore route during the chorus, before a flashy solo kicks in around the middle of the song. From that point, it leads into a post-hardcore direction and continues to showcase those fluid and perfectly-executed cleans.
This EP is unlike anything I’ve heard this year, not only because of how impressive it is but because of how diverse it is. As I said, no two songs are the same. They manage to incorporate many different genres/influences into each song, conveying an overall message of hope and beauty, when life and the world in general looks bleak. If you don’t listen to any other album this year, do yourself a favor and spend the money to pick up Navigator. The EP was released this past week and I guarantee, you’ll find something to love. The only question that remains, though, is what is next for these guys? How can they top such an incredible piece of musical history? Time will tell and I believe they’ll shock the world, again, with the next one. Check out the title track below (courtesy of our homies Rhude Productions), pick up your copy and follow this band. Not only are they genuinely amazing musicians, they are very dedicated to their fans and whoever supports them.
“Navigator” (Official Lyric Video)
Modern Day Kings on Social Media
Modern Day Kings is:
Adam James Richards – Vocals
Will Bishnow – Guitar
Michael Thatcher – Guitar/Vocals
Aaron Wagner – Bass
Mark Griffor – Drums