Crimson Shadows - Kings Among Men
Napalm Records
Extreme Power Metal
10 songs (49'57")
Release year: 2014
Napalm Records
Reviewed by Alex

After listening to Canadians Crimson Shadows for a few times I feel that this band is destined to make waves. Good or bad, but they will. And it isn’t only because the band roared onto the scene by participating and winning Wacken Metal Battle in 2013. That would be the reason strong enough, but their first label debut Kings Among Men will leave many with a strong opinion about them. I sense that not all of those voices would be singing praises, but the fact many will have something to say, the mere fact that Crimson Shadows will elicit a reaction, anything beyond a shoulder shrug, is a good thing. You just want the people to care about you …

Now let me try and explain why I think this music may invoke a pair of polar opposite attitudes towards it. Crimson Shadows certainly bring about intense saturated music and they are certainly one of the most caffeinated and energetic bands you will ever hear. Except sounds of battle intro March to Victory, and another short acoustic On the Eve of Battle, Kings Among Men is pretty much non-stop combination of hyperspeed technical power metal with folk motifs and extreme metal vocals. Imagine yourself a bastard child of Lost Horizon, Dragonforce and Ensiferum and you should be getting a picture. Just like Lost Horizon Crimson Shadows tear into gallops and continuously come up with muscular riffs. The band tends to set up the melody for a song early (Heroes Among Us, Maiden’s Call) and then just sprint with it all the way through the verse and eventually harmonized chorus. Hints at slowdowns (A Gathering of Kings) are just that, hints, and aside from a mid-song acoustic pause in Braving the Storm, this music just leaves you plain breathless. How drummer Cory Hofing can possess this unbelievable stamina is beyond me. At the same time Crimson Shadows guitarists, Greg Rounding and Ryan Hofing, exhibit serious technical guitar wizardry. You just don’t display this degree of flexibility and histrionics without significant practice and skill. For long stretches of time (just like Dragonforce I mentioned earlier) Kings Among Men cuts become instrumental displays of shred and finger-twisting arpeggios. And, finally, many, if not most, songs on the album deal with battle and belligerent topics, so the use of extreme vocals amidst this power metal smorgasbord is entirely proper. Jimi Maltais most of the time spits out fire breathing snarls, his vocals becoming more demented and higher shrieks on occasion (Freedom and Salvation, Rise to Power, Moonlit Skies and Bloody Ties), until he is joined by backing vocals in clean choruses. For a moodlifter and picker-upper in the morning Kings Among Men will be hitting many spots.

And then there will be naysayers. If your morning ride lasts about half the album, on the way home you will already know what will be happening. Kings Among Men runs out of nuances somewhere around Braving the Storm, with only epic 10 min long Moonlit Skies and Bloody Ties deviating from the blueprint. So, could it be the album has one or two songs too many? And how will Crimson Shadows add to the palette in the future? I could listen to a song from the album, any song in fact, by itself, and tap my feet along with the rhythm, fist pumping and all. But get me to sit through continuous 50 minutes of Crimson Shadows and my attention will wane. Yet, there could be worse calls than that, and some will label Kings Among Men a steaming pile of cheese. Those people wouldn’t last through two songs on the album, and to them, frankly, the Wacken winner title is already like a red cloth to a bull. They should stay away from the album if they could not fathom Lost Horizon a few years ago.

I hope my review can serve as an enticement for some and a warning sign for others. Line up to make your choices.

Killing Songs :
Rise to Power, Maiden's Call, Moonlit Skies and Bloody Ties
Alex quoted 80 / 100
Chris quoted 91 / 100
Other albums by Crimson Shadows that we have reviewed:
Crimson Shadows - Glory on the Battlefield reviewed by Chris and quoted 94 / 100
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