REVIEW: SPEAKING THE KINGS – “Carousel”
On October 16, 2015, the Orange County metalcore band Speaking the Kings released their debut full-length album Carousel. The album was promised to be a “journey through catchy choruses to the heaviest of breakdowns”. With all that said, the album has been produced by Steve Evetts, who over time has worked with big names such as Suicide Silence, the Dillinger Escape Plan, the Cure and Sepultura, which should generate interest in this record.
The album is only ten songs long, placing nicely in the standard eight to twelve song format which has become formulaic in modern rock music. The album opens with “Breathe”, which wastes no time getting straight into the action with its first heavy breakdown section. The unclean vocals exhibited by frontman Bobby Burap are nothing special when it comes to this form of metalcore, but it is his clean vocals that will make listeners’ ears prick up when they are first heard. The album definitely kicks off to a roaring start with this opening track.
“Choke” opens with an introductory section reminiscent of pop-punk and a tinge of arena rock rather than the metalcore heard on the previous song, but regardless contains lots of positive energy and bounce when it comes to music like this. When it comes to the heavier segments, however, the song doesn’t let up with a rhythm which is perfect for banging your head. The third song on the album, entitled “Caught in the Middle”, goes right back in with the heavy instrumentals and the clean vocals, while track four “Liar Liar” retains lots of clean melodic vocalism specifically designed for large sing-a-longs in a concert situation.
The album’s fifth song “Motion Sickness” marks the half-way point for the record, with the song continuing the album’s general theme of big choruses and instrumental melodies which are certain to appeal to the listener. The strength of Burap’s vocal delivery on this song in particular cannot be understated, as Speaking the Kings really have one of the best singers around fronting them. “Shipwrecked” opens with lots of ripping power chords when it comes to the guitar before settling into a brilliant groove and lots of energetic buzz, as said before on the song “Choke” earlier on in this album. The track closes with a burst of grunge-inspired guitar fuzziness, which adds to the song’s eventual conclusion.
“Worthless” carries on the undeniable brilliance of Bobby Burap’s vocals and vocal lines, which float perfectly on top of the music. The vocals blending in between bursts of guitar complement each other fantastically, which again adds to the greatness of the song at hand. The lyrics in this song are perhaps more noticeable here than on any of the songs heard before on this record, while the track ends climatically as the listener expects the song to launch into a breakdown instead of ending suddenly. “City Lights”, meanwhile, has its moments where the track slows down before speeding right back up again, which gives the song its individual flavour which separates it from the rest of the songs on this album. It is particularly refreshing that the songs on this album are capable of doing new things so far into the record.
The album’s second last track, entitled “The Way”, opens with the record’s heaviest introduction in terms of vocal ferocity before settling into a familiar and softer singing groove. On this song in particular, the vocal styles switch back and forth between brutal and melodic, which is a tried and tested pattern which has been done many times in other bands. Regardless, Speaking the Kings finds a way to keep traditional musical techniques from becoming stale. This song contains a spoken-word section about two-thirds of the way through which noticeably disrupts the track’s pace, which is slightly disappointing. The final chorus of the song launches into full-effect immediately afterwards however, along with a short burst of brutal vocals from Bobby Burap.
The album’s closing track is called “Close to Impossible”, which breaks away from the usual mould of albums having a slower closing song. Instead, “Close to Impossible” changes its tempo very slightly when transitioning from one section to another. In spite of this, the general feel of the song is quite similar to many of the album’s previous tracks, which could be seen as a potential negative but due to the sheer wonderfulness that these songs deliver, it is nothing but an absolute positive.
Carousel by Speaking the Kings has come out of nowhere to become in my opinion one of 2015’s best albums full-stop, not just in terms of debut records. If you’re a fan of post-hardcore, metalcore, or just brilliant rock music, I cannot recommend this album enough.