Kings Destroy from Brooklyn have released their fourth album Fantasma Nera (Black Ghost, in Italian) and it’s an absolute blinder. Following on from their 2012 debut And the Rest Shall Perish and their most recent, self-titled 2015 release, this sees the band consolidating their style and sound. Artfully combining elements of doom, stoner, classic rock, prog and grunge to form a package which has a peculiar familiarity despite being box fresh! Accessible, but with a stronger sense of self and confidence, this is their most compelling work to date. Produced by David Bottrill (Tool, King Crimson, Stone Sour) who has truly captured the essence of Kings Destroy masterfully. “We upended our usual approach in creating this album,” says guitarist Carl Porcaro.
“We’d been playing together for so many years, and all of our previous albums were the result of us hashing out the ideas in rehearsal and learning to play the songs live prior to going into the studio. For Fantasma Nera we put the songs first and let the material dictate the means by which the album was created. Producer David Bottrill helped us find new creative approaches, and this resulted in an album that doesn’t sound like anything else we’ve ever done.”
The Nightbird opens the journey with a slightly slouchy, stoner groove but with a grungy warmth awesome riffs and almost punk-esque backing shouts. Commencing in a similar vein, the title track Fantasma Nera chugs with tribal percussion and soaring chorus “While touring in Italy with Rosetta a few years ago, one of the band members earned the nickname ‘Fantasma Nera,’” explains guitar player Carl Porcaro. “The term eventually found its way into this song as a metaphor for the darkest part of human nature and the struggle to accept and embrace it.”
Barbarossa initially sounds very radio-friendly; imagine a summers day drive with the windows down. Melodic and uplifting, that is until you realise that the track recounts the last thoughts of a soldier dying on a battlefield. The stark contrast between the topic and the initial feel is rather special. Unmake It slows the pace for a slightly progressive melancholic grungey number
Dead Before is heavy on the atmosphere, in a fairly pared back ballad with a plaintive chorus of “It’s all true, there is no finish line…” which is as disconcerting as it is haunting.
Yonkers Ceiling Collapse has echoes of early Ozzy with heavier hints at Sabbath and Judas Priest in this sleazy riff driven number, the midtempo psychedelically bass driven Seven Billion Drones which is deceptively catchy and far more complex than you will initially realise for me is a stand out track. You’re The Puppet has more of a classic rock vibe, but with a very contemporary feel and a simply wonderful bridge. Grungier, darker and dirgier Bleed Down The sun is simply great, and is followed by the sublime Stormy Times with its stoner Southern rock weightiness
“We challenged ourselves to make the best album we could,” said singer Stephen Murphy.
“…and we left our guts on the table. When I finished the vocals on this album, I was mentally and physically broken from the effort. I did not sing again for two months after it was recorded. I owed that effort to my bandmates, and they did the same for me.”
It’s impossible to doubt that statement, this body of work is very special indeed. Crossing genres and snubbing stereotypes, this is clever and contemporary AOR.
Fantasma Nera tracklist:
- The Nightbird
- Fantasma Nera
- Unmake It
- Dead Before
- Yonkers Ceiling Collapse
- Seven Billion Drones
- You’re The Puppet
- Bleed Down The sun
- Stormy Times
Fantasma Nera was released March 8th and available now here
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