I Am King


Written by: TL on 15/12/2013 16:23:20

Normally when I give a debut EP 7½ it's because it's a sign that I think a band is knocking on the door, standing impressively close to the big leagues at an early stage without actually jumping in there with their first try. It also normally means that I'll pay extra special attention to their debut full length to see if they can iron out the last kinks for when it really counts. Enter Pennsylvanian melodic metalcore sextet I Am King, whose self-titled debut EP from last year had all the traits of the band's status as recent Rise Records signees, yet also had enough positive nuances in the band's very typical-for-the-genre style to give me a good feeling about them.

Striking while the proverbial iron was nice and hot, the band has quickly deployed enough written material for a studio album in the recently released "Onehundred" on which they sadly yet perhaps predictably inch closer to their label mates and contemporaries and away from my good graces. Always a scenester's metalcore band to begin with, the band employs a mix of pseudo-blazing guitar melodies, crunchy breakdowns, harsh screams and poppy, raspy, r'n'b-inspired, clean vocals. Yet while some might have trouble distinguishing their first serving from this second one, several playthroughs have left me unable to get around the feeling that while "I Am King" featured the heaviness as something that supplemented the band's seamlessly flowing melodic parts, "Onehundred" allows the two sides of the band more equal footing, unfortunately causing them to disrupt each other in more predictable heavy verse/poppy chorus constellations.

That at least is the explanation I suggest instead of just offering you a cop-out in vein of "the songs aren't as good", and if you follow the genre I'm sure you know what I mean when I say that the transitions between the heavy and clean parts here simply seem mechanical to a point that makes them feel less integrated and hence weaker off individually. Singers Sam Sky and Nate Newhard sound overly processed and you could be fooled into believing that there was only one of them, and that their overlapping parts were simply recording tricks, which is a damn shame because the few moments when they actually compliment each other on top of some of the more technical guitarwork are easily the most promising on "Onehundred". In my view these are the traits the band should emphasize instead of trying to become a band like Issues, compared with which they have much less catchyness.

Despite my disappointment with I Am King however, don't mistake me for thinking "Onehundred" a complete waste. Overall it's more par for the course than below it, and there are a few occasions of shamelessly poppy moments that are undeniably pretty catchy. "Fallen" for instance, is a striking portion of debauchery which is more than a little reminiscent of Escape The Fate's desperate sleazyness as it builds to the ridiculous, mosh-starting "Baby you killed me! hook. The only problem is that the bridges extending it endlessly at the long end write checks that the song's good parts can't fully cash. Similarly "Ambition & Contrast" has a catchy melody in the end of the chorus, yet the same chorus' beginning sounds so digitalized that it might make you cringe. And so it goes across the span of the disc: For each decent harmony or guitar lead there's a generic moment of mediocre, unambitious heaviness or tame singing. See "Move Slow" for instance, which features one Elliot Coleman on guest vocals: The song opens up wielding the band's poppier traits nicely, but soon descents into an unimpressive scream session before settling into the all too unimpressive back and forth that is exactly what you would expect.

To make a long story short, my main takeaway from "Onehundred" is that while it has its catchy moments, they're too far apart and as a whole the record is unsatisfying. It's exactly the kind of record a band like I Am King can use to say "if we can be identical to every mid-level band in this genre then we'll just settle for that" and while I'm sure the younger generations of people draped in tank tops with dramatic words on them will be happy to mosh and cameraphone' exactly that type of material at live shows across the US continent, more discerning music fans will miss either some more engaging songwriting or at least an impression of these guys wanting to actually take the genre somewhere. So while this isn't unlikeable, you'd be considerably better off going back and giving Hands Like Houses or Shreddy Krueger another spin.

Download: Fallen, Ambition & Contrast
For The Fans Of: Outline In Color, Issues, Escape The Fate, Sleeping With Sirens, Hands Like Houses
Listen: facebook.com/iamkingpa

Release Date 15.10.2013
Velocity/Rise Records

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