Pretty Maids – Kingmaker – Album Review

pretty-maids-kingmaker-cover

Artist: Pretty Maids

Album Title: Kingmaker

Label: Frontiers Records

Date Of Release: 4 November 2016

Melodic hard rockers Pretty Maids have been going for around 35 years or, to put it another way, nearly as long as I’ve been alive. Formed in Denmark in 1981 by vocalist Ronnie Atkins and guitarist Ken Hammer, the band have gone through a fair few line-up changes over the years but remain headed by their founders, releasing no fewer than 15 albums over that time. So why, in that case, have I never really listened to them or explored their back catalogue before now?

I was actually surprised to note that I have their 2010 album ‘Pandemonium’ in my collection. I don’t remember buying it or even listening to it. I must have, but maybe at the time it failed to make enough of an impact on me to register within my memory. Other than that, Pretty Maids remain a mystery to me. Until now.

I heard a few people talking favourably about ‘Kingmaker’ on social media and so, when the promo became available, I felt the need to investigate further. And, overall, I’m pleased I did, because there is some very strong material on ‘Kingmaker’, the Danes’ 15th record that I really enjoy.

I’m convinced that there’s a Christian undertone to Pretty Maids and research on the Internet would hint that I’m correct. There is just too much within the lyrics for it to be coincidence. ‘When God Took A Day Off’ could just be an interesting song title, but when the album is listened to in full, I’m certain that there’s more to it than that. And so, like London buses, I’m reviewing my third album with religious content in a month. And what’s more, I haven’t spontaneously combusted or come out in a rash. Who’d have thought it, eh?

Anyway, back to the important topic of the music and as I said, ‘Kingmaker’ is an impressive body of work that has meant that I shall be rectifying my oversight and exploring the back catalogue in the coming months as time allows.

As long term fans are already fully aware, ‘Kingmaker’ is chock full of melodic hard rock anthems that get the blood pumping and heads nodding with gusto. Immediately evident on this record is the genuine in-your-face heaviness that pervades. There are times when the material verges into metal territory and as far as I’m concerned, this is a great thing. The riffs from Hammer are full of power and real bite whilst the rhythm section of drummer Allan Tschicaja and bassist Rene Shades propel the music with energy and powerful intent.

However, the heaviness is only one aspect of what makes Pretty Maids a hit with me. Big hook-laden and memorable choruses litter the record from start to finish. The keys that are apparently delivered by Chris Laney on this album add a certain depth to many of the compositions, softening the edges in places, adding a symphonic richness and even injecting a demonstrable pop edge, working in conjunction with those aforementioned melodies in the process.

pretty-maids-band

And then there is Atkins himself that sits front and centre, behind the microphone. I’ve grown to really like his performance as it is varied and convincing throughout. I like the gritty, gravelly tone that becomes even more pronounced when injecting a little menace into his delivery. At the same time, when the music requires something a little more sensitive and melodic, Atkins doesn’t disappoint, despite the toll that 35 years in the industry must have had on those vocal chords.

‘Civilized Monsters’ acts as a perfect microcosm of what Pretty Maids are all about on ‘Kingmaker’. It has an enormous chorus that borders on pop territory given how damn catchy it is. And yet the rhythms are huge whilst at points, the riffs are savage metal beasts that would be comfortably at home on a classic metal album.

There are numerous cuts on this eleven-track record that are deserving of their moment in the spotlight truth be told. For example, ‘Sickening’ is arguably the heaviest song on the record, a brilliant headbanger of a track. By contrast, ‘Face The World’ is a corking up-tempo melodic rock track with tinkling keys, great vocals and a breezy feel-good chorus

However, for all of that, my favourite moments are front-loaded and create an epic and monstrous opening one-two. Up first is the aforementioned ‘When God Took A Day Off. It begins quietly, almost cinematically, complete with plain-song samples that ramp up the atmosphere. Then a huge riff kicks in, eventually joined by the rest of the band to deliver a fabulous track. The verses quieten down only to then explode into a chorus that I sing along with almost immediately. It’s a dark composition lyrically but it is a brilliant track that I simply can’t get enough of.

The title track follows and maintains the excellence. It wastes no time in getting going, belting out another huge riff. I love the lead guitar over the top that adds a touch of finesse and the pounding rhythm is irresistible, carrying us along for the high-octane ride. The stomping chorus features a delicious vocal melody that turns something good into something great whilst the keys bathe the whole thing in really lovely fashion.

Aside from a slightly harsh production from Jacob Hansen at the top end and a moment or two where the momentum slips just a touch, ‘Kingmaker’ is a very impressive album and is thoroughly enjoyable. It blends the heaviness of classic metal with the immediacy and subtlety of melodic hard rock. And the choruses? Some of the best I’ve heard this year. As such, I have really had my head turned by Pretty Maids with ‘Kingmaker’. It’s taken me 35 years, but better late than never hey?!

The Score Of Much Metal: 8.25

If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others via my reviews pages or by clicking the links right here:

In Flames – Battles
The Neal Morse Band – The Similitude Of A Dream
Memoreve – Insignia
Enbound – The Blackened Heart
Blind Ego – Liquid
Dark Tranquillity – Atoma
Hammerfall – Built To Last
Testament – Brotherhood Of The Snake
Crippled Black Phoenix – Bronze
Riverside – Eye Of The Soundscape
Hanging Garden – Hereafter
Theocracy – Ghost Ship
Arkona – Lunaris
Oddland – Origin
Sonata Arctica – The Ninth Hour
Edensong – Years In The Garden of Years
Meshuggah – The Violent Sleep Of Reason
Alcest – Kodama
Opeth – Sorceress
Negura Bunget – ZI
Epica – The Holographic Principle
Amaranthe – Maximalism
Eye Of Solitude – Cenotaph
Seven Impale – Contrapasso
DGM – The Passage
Pressure Points – False Lights
In The Woods – Pure
Devin Townsend – Transcendence
The Pineapple Thief – Your Wilderness
Evergrey – The Storm Within
Dream The Electric Sleep – Beneath The Dark Wide Sky
Periphery – ‘Periphery III: Select Difficulty’
Karmakanic – Dot
Novena – Secondary Genesis
Witherscape – The Northern Sanctuary
Eric Gillette – The Great Unknown
Tilt – Hinterland
Cosmograf – The Unreasonable Silence
Fates Warning – Theories Of Flight
Wolverine – Machina Viva
Be’lakor – Vessels
Lacuna Coil – Delirium
Big Big Train – Folklore
Airbag – Disconnected
Katatonia – The Fall Of Hearts
Frost* – Falling Satellites
Glorior Belli – Sundown (The Flock That Welcomes)
Habu – Infinite
Grand Magus ‘Sword Songs’
Messenger – Threnodies
Svoid – Storming Voices Of Inner Devotion
Fallujah – Dreamless
In Mourning – Afterglow
Haken – Affinity
Long Distance Calling – Trips
October Tide – Winged Waltz
Odd Logic – Penny For Your Thoughts
Iron Mountain – Unum
Knifeworld – Bottled Out Of Eden
Novembre – Ursa
Beholder – Reflections
Neverworld – Dreamsnatcher
Universal Mind Project – The Jaguar Priest
Thunderstone – Apocalypse Again
InnerWish – Innerwish
Mob Rules – Tales From Beyond
Ghost Bath – Moonlover
Spiritual Beggars – Sunrise To Sundown
Oceans Of Slumber – Winter
Rikard Zander – I Can Do Without Love
Redemption – The Art Of Loss
Headspace – All That You Fear Is Gone
Chris Quirarte – Mending Broken Bridges
Sunburst – Fragments Of Creation
Inglorious – Inglorious
Omnium Gatherum – Grey Heavens
Structural Disorder – Distance
Votum – Ktonik
Fleshgod Apocalypse – King
Rikard Sjoblom – The Unbendable Sleep
Textures – Phenotype
Serenity – Codex Atlanticus
Borknagar – Winter Thrice
The Mute Gods – Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me
Brainstorm – Scary Creatures
Arcade Messiah – II
Phantasma – The Deviant Hearts
Rendezvous Point – Solar Storm
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld II
Antimatter – The Judas Table
Bauda – Sporelights
Waken Eyes – Exodus
Earthside – A Dream In Static
Caligula’s Horse – Bloom
Teramaze – Her Halo
Amorphis – Under The Red Cloud
Spock’s Beard – The Oblivion Particle
Agent Fresco – Destrier
Cattle Decapitation – The Anthropocene Extinction
Between The Buried And Me – Coma Ecliptic
Cradle Of Filth – Hammer Of The Witches
Disarmonia Mundi – Cold Inferno
District 97 – In Vaults
Progoctopus – Transcendence
Big Big Train – Wassail
NightMare World – In The Fullness Of Time
Helloween – My God-Given Right
Triaxis – Zero Hour
Isurus – Logocharya
Arcturus – Arcturian
Kamelot – Haven
Native Construct – Quiet World
Sigh – Graveward
Pantommind – Searching For Eternity
Subterranean Masquerade – The Great Bazaar
Klone – Here Comes The Sun
The Gentle Storm – The Diary
Melechesh – Enki
Enslaved – In Times
Keep Of Kalessin – Epistemology
Lonely Robot – Please Come Home
The Neal Morse Band – The Grand Experiment
Zero Stroke – As The Colours Seep
AudioPlastik – In The Head Of A Maniac
Revolution Saints – Revolution Saints
Mors Principium Est – Dawn of The 5th Era
Arcade Messiah – Arcade Messiah
Triosphere – The Heart Of The Matter
Neonfly – Strangers In Paradise
Knight Area – Hyperdrive
Haken – Restoration
James LaBrie – Impermanent Resonance
Mercenary – Through Our Darkest Days
A.C.T. – Circus Pandemonium
Xerath – III
Big Big Train – English Electric (Part 1)
Thought Chamber – Psykerion
Marcus Jidell – Pictures From A Time Traveller
H.E.A.T – Tearing Down The Walls
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld

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