King Kobra - King Kobra (2011) May 25, 2011 14:02:41 GMT -5
Post by Erik Rupp on May 25, 2011 14:02:41 GMT -5
King Kobra was a "B" level band back in the 80's. They put out one very, very good Hard Rock/Melodic Metal album in 1985 (Ready To Strike) and followed it up with a rather patchy Pop/Rock album (Thrill of a Lifetime) before fragmenting and putting out a mediocre raw Hard Rock album (King Kobra III). Unfortunately, they never lived up to the promise of that first album.
With the original line-up (mostly) reunited, drummer Carmine Appice reformed the band he put together in the mid 80's, and you can easily tell that all involved took the project very seriously. With ex-Rough Cutt and Quiet Riot vocalist Paul Shortino stepping in as the band's new lead singer this line-up sounds like a well rehearsed unit. Shortino adds his soulful, melodic songwriting style to some tasty, rifftastic Hard Rock, making for a very classy album, even if it is very dated in style.
By this point bands of that era have pretty much stopped trying to reinvent themselves to fit in the current music scene. They know who their audience is, and they are comfortable with that. It's that obvious comfort level that allowed the band to just focus on writing and recording the best songs they could.
And they (along with their producer and songwriting partners) came up with some real winners.
The album gets off to a rousing start with, "Rock This House," a high octane, high energy song that finds the band back in top form. Good riffs, good vocal melodies, and a ton of energy combine to make this a great way to open the album. Shortino fits the band like a glove, and there is a real, noticeable chemistry between the musicians that makes this sound like a legitimate band, not just a bunch of guys who had gotten together for the first time in a quarter century.
"Turn Up the Good (Times)," is a great, chugging mid tempo rocker with some truly great riffing and vocal melodies. It's instant. It grabs the listener by the throat and doesn't let go. It is a HUGE song. Big, funky riffs, big soulful vocal melodies and another great vocal performance from Shortino make this one of the highlights of the album.
And then things come back down to Earth a bit. "Live Forever," is OK. It's a moody, melodic song that is perhaps a bit too poppy for it's own good. It's not bad, but it just doesn't fit the album all that well. Most of this album has an edge, but this song doesn't. Not bad, but it's not monumental like the previous song was. Think Stryper meets Save Your Prayers era Waysted and you'll have a good idea of what it sounds like.
Fortunately, the band gets back to the BIG ROCK on the next track, "Tear Down The Walls," which sounds a lot like Contagious-era Y&T. A lot. And it would have been a highlight on that album. Slower, stomping it's way ever forward, this is a song that has some infectious hooks and good riffs. Carmine Appice sounds particularly good on this one, overplaying ever so slightly in a way that just adds flair and style to what is otherwise a fairly simple and straightforward song.
"This Is How We Roll." Really? Then that's a pretty cool way to roll. Upbeat, energetic, melodic, hard-edged, those terms all apply to this one, as does, "Good, very good." Really, this is another album highlight. As is the next track, "Midnight Woman," which is a little slower and moodier, but still powerful. Open, hanging chords give Paul Shortino room to sing, which is almost always a good thing. The chorus is very melodic and catchy, and would have fit in perfectly in 1986. In 2011 it may not sound new and fresh, but it doesn't sound stale or overly dated, either. It just sounds good.
From there King Kobra gets a little funky, a little bouncy, and more than a little playful with, "We Got A Fever." Shortino gets to show his vocal chops here, as well as his ability to write the kind of soulful vocal melodies that sets him apart from most of his contemporaries. This is another really, really good song.
But the next song takes things up to another level. The chorus on, "Top of the World," is simply monumental. The bridge/pre-chorus section is excellent as well, and while the verses aren't the least bit shabby it is interesting to hear how the song gets stronger as it goes along. This is one of those songs that shows a band and a group of songwriters that really know what they're doing. They're a group of seasoned pros who still have a lot left in the tank.
Eight songs in, and there's only one slight misstep. That's pretty impressive.
And the next song, "You Make It Easy," could easily have come straight from the songwriting sessions for Ready To Strike. The backing vocals almost sound like Joe Lynn Turner era Rainbow, but in the context of this song it ends up with that Ready To Strike album vibe. It's a mid tempo song with (again) a ton of melody that isn't the least bit, "Wimpy." Instead of wimpy it just sounds classy. More great stuff.
But after hearing, "Live Forever," you just had to have the feeling that a ballad was coming, and it shows up as the 10th track on the album, "Cryin' Turns to Rain." Laced with acoustic guitars, and showing off Paul's ability to convey melody with his raspy voice this Power Ballad isn't bad, it's just... unneccessary. It's just another Power Ballad on a Hard Rock/Melodic Metal album. It was predictable, and it saps the energy that the album had going for it.
Then the band gets Hot for Teacher. "Screamin' For More," fits in really well in that kind of style - the double bass drum shuffle driven song. It's another good song, but something about it doesn't seem to be at the level of most of the other hard rockers on the album. It's not far off, and it is very good, but it's just not quite as good as the rest of them.
The album closes on a melodic, moody, almost mellow note. The acoustic guitar driven, "Fade Away," is a fairly good song, but rather than ending the album with a bang they end it on a somewhat melancholy note. Lyrically this one doesn't seem to be a tribute to Shortino's friend and mentor, Ronnie James Dio, but they do use a couple lines of the lyrics in the liner notes as a dedication to his late friend.
Despite the two ballads at the end of the album King Kobra is a great 80's style Hard Rock/Melodic Metal album. There are too many top notch, classy, well written and performed songs on here for this to be anything but a triumphant return. King Kobra, the album, may not sell a lot, but it is an album that fans of 80's Hard Rock should like a lot if they give it a chance.