I Am King

Solidarity EP

Written by: TL on 01/04/2015 12:53:02

Pennsylvania sextet I Am King is a band that's been stuck in "almost there but not quite" mode on their first two releases that we've reviewed here, the last of which was "Onehundred" from 2013. Since that release the band has substituted its clean vocalist Sam Sky with new man Angel Flores, and now they're back with "Solidarity" a self-produced record of nine tracks and 35 minutes of music, yet they call it an EP? An odd designation, which doesn't really change anything except make you wonder if the group is hoping that critics will go easy on their new line-up because "it's just an EP", which is completely unnecessary, because "Solidarity" is actually quite an encouraging listen.

On "Solidarity", I Am King sound a lot less typical metalcore, and more like the powerful melodic rock/post-hardcore of Saosin or From First To Last in their heyday. Compared to Sky, Flores' vocals are not as thin and screechy, although he does get raspy more often than not, and he sounds a lot like Brandon Roundtree from the sadly defunct Conditions. And, in fact, the best way to explain the EP is probably to imagine Saosin-style ringing guitar work, Conditions-type encouraging and powerfully delivered vocal melodies, plus some off the hook screaming reminiscent of early Adept material, despite this heavier side of the band being relegated to a smaller role on here.

The most instantly noteworthy song is clearly "Crush", which overcomes a pretty corny lyrical hook with the sheer catchiness of its melody and the good interplay by short bursts of heaviness in between the primary melodic parts. You imagine this being the kind of song to get crowds bouncing at Warped Tour while even discerning listeners consider it a nice alternative to the mediocre stuff they would otherwise be exposed to there. And in general it's very positive to hear how lively the parts of I Am King's new songs are instrumentally, with there being plenty of well-written details to appreciate beyond the chugging and power-chords many -core bands hustle a living with. Furthermore, the range of expression on the record is also quite diverse, with a song like "Battle Scars" not sounding too unlike heavy pop-punk in the vein of Four Year Strong, while one like "Monarchy" opens with blistering tapped leads and monstrous screams backing up the singing.

Unfortunately the band's decision to take care of recording and producing on their own puts a limit on the listening experience, because the various instruments and vocal parts feel like they've ended up placed a bit too close in the mix. The consequence is that where cutting edge records these days make you feel like your attention is being lead step by step from this lead to that vocal hook and over to this breakdown, listening to "Solidarity" as a whole feels a bit cluttered and disorienting. This is a big shame, considering how often on the record you can hear something and think how well it would work live, prompting you to turn it up to hear it better, with the result being that the sound only gets more oppressive on your ears. If we accept that "Solidarity" is only an EP though, the band really only has one full length to their name, and it's worth hoping that they can build on this moving forward. If they can find a slightly better flow and a slightly better level of production, without dumbing things down to your typical metalcore mediocrity, it sounds like these dudes could have potential to pull ahead in the scene.

Download: Crush, Try Hard, Battle Scars, Solidarity
For The Fans Of: Saosin, Conditions, From First To Last, Chiodos
Listen: facebook.com/iamkingpa

Release date 23.03.2015

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