Few musicians in the metal scene can boast as impressive a resume as Sweden’s Magnus Karlsson. Everything the man touches turns to gold, and he’s essentially the go-to songwriter for excellent melodic heavy metal/AOR-influenced metal. It should be no surprise, then, that his solo project is in a similar vein. Despite my admittedly only lukewarm review of the debut record, “Free Fall”, that album has quickly become one of my favourite metal records of recent years. This naturally raises the question of how its successor, “Kingdom of Rock”, stacks up. The answer is that it is nearly as impressive, but doesn’t feel quite as complete.
To be clear, this is a fantastic album. As great of a guitar player as Magnus is, he never lets shredding dominate the music, instead opting to write absurdly catchy anthems. The title track is the most prominent of these efforts, as it was clearly designed as an ode to metal. The album actually continues with its highlights quite quickly, as the following two songs, “Out of the Dark” and “No Control”, are also among the stronger work. The remainder of the record is similar in style (aside from the sole ballad, “The Right Moment”). In general, a lot of these songs are either mid-paced, or slightly more upbeat. The melodies are all positive and uplifting, creating a joyous atmosphere at pretty much every moment.
Much like the previous record, however, the choice of guest singers is perplexing. With the exception of Jorn Lande, none of these vocalists truly outclass Magnus (who is an excellent singer himself). Quite honestly, if you weren’t listening too astutely, you probably wouldn’t even notice the fact that the singer changes on each song. Of course, this project is likely designed to be a lot of fun for Magnus, so he likely just asked his friends and idols to sing on it, but this “metal opera” format doesn’t work quite the same way it does for a band like Avantasia, for example (admittedly, it isn't quite the same type of record, as there is only one singer per song). Personally, I’d love to Magnus to just sing on every track because he is that impressive of a vocalist.
His skill is most evident on what is by far the best song: “Walk This Road Alone”. This track closes out the record and shows Magnus delivering a heavy amount of emotion. The chorus retains a mid-paced feel with the drums unleashing pounding double bass, and Magnus singing his heart out. This is one of those songs that could be perceived as boring with the wrong vocalist, but Magnus does it justice, and it ends up being the best song across both of his solo records.
In the grand scheme of things, guest singers not measuring up to a stellar vocalist is a minor complaint. Really, there’s nothing wrong with this album, and it has a broad appeal that could easily reach beyond the realms of metal. It isn’t excessively heavy, but it is memorable and enjoyable. It could almost be described as easy-listening metal at times, and that is a refreshing change from some of the more aggressive stuff in the metal world. Ultimately, “Kingdom of Rock” is yet another record that displays the impressive songwriting efforts of the mighty Magnus Karlsson!
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"Kingdom of Rock"
"Walk This Road Alone"
4.5/5 or 90%.
Written by Scott