Album Review: King Kraken – MCLXXX

It’s been a long time coming, but the gentle swell that first appeared off the coast of South Wales in 2019 is rapidly transforming into a tsunami that is going to be unstoppable by the end of 2023. The debut album from King Kraken is ready at last, and the wait has been worth every minute. This is an album that is going to explode this band onto the UK metal scene, and I’d be unsurprised, even in January, if MCLXXX isn’t featuring in those best of year lists in 11 months.

The pause that was forced upon the quintet due to the pandemic, literally weeks after they’d left the studio having recorded their second EP, has provided the band with time to regroup, flex those writing muscles and deliver an album that features ten tracks of varying style, power, and intensity. There’s not one piece of filler on this album, and it’s an addictive serving from start to finish.

Enhanced by the superb production of Romesh Dodangoda, the sound is big, bold, and confident. The opening duo, “Devil’s Night” and “Bastard Liar” set the Kraken’s stall out. This is bone jarring heavy metal with a groove and tempo that will catch the ear of a wide span of rock fans. It’s heavy enough to appeal to those who like the extreme, thanks to the huge riffs and massive drum sound, but also catchy enough for the classic rock lovers because of the melody and catchiness of the songs.

Picking apart this album would be pointless. You need to experience it for yourself. There are searing lead breaks throughout, thanks to the dexterity of lead guitarist Adam Kowalski Healey, whose blues-based background brings another dimension to the songs. Dive headlong into second single “Green Terror”, or the pulsing “Veins”, with their vibrant groove and anthemic feel. It’s impossible to avoid singing along after a couple of listens, such is the powerful vocal of mark Donoghue, whose performance on the album is simply monstrous.

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A couple of better-known tracks hold the middle of the album together comfortably. First Single “Haddonfield 78” and ”Man Made Monster” are already live staples and both sit strongly in their central position. It’s the two that follow it that are of real fresh interest. “Walls of Jericho” sees the band take a different approach, throwing in a haunting Opeth-style segment which allows Karl Meyer’s bass to drive the song forward and allow Healey to unleash another fine solo. “Proctor’s Ledge” sees King Kraken show their inner Clutch, with a slower, brooding, and meandering track that wouldn’t be out of place alongside the Maryland quartet’s catalogue. It’s a fabulous change of pace and provides depth and texture which is needed. It’s probably Donoghue’s best performance on the album; he makes it his own with a cracking delivery.

All these songs are held tightly together by Meyer’s fluid bass lines, the solid rhythm guitar work of Pete Rose and the thunderous drumming of Richard Lee Mears, whose sound is just enormous. It’s the cohesion that’s impressive throughout, and nowhere is there a better example than on the duo that close the album, the gargantuan “Chaos Engine” and the grunge-flavoured “Castle of Bones”. Two more familiar songs, both sound massive here with the latter just shading it for me with its crunching riff and pounding feel.

There aren’t many debut albums which hold your attention from start to finish. MCLXXX is one of them. It’s a superb release, and an album that is likely to catapult these likeable rogues to higher plains very soon. Stream it, buy it, steal it, but make sure you listen to it. It’s not going to disappoint in any way.

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MCLXXX is out on January 28th

Check out all the bands we review in 2023 on our Spotify and YouTube playlists!

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