Ex-Rage composer and guitarist Victor Smolski brings together Almanac, a straightforward Heavy Metal band drawing heavily on Thrash and Power Metal. Along with former members of Lingua Mortis Orchestra, Pink Cream 69 and Brainstorm, Almanac bring chugging riffs and the novel approach of not one, or two, but three vocalists to their second album, Kingslayer.
The album begins with ‘Regicide,’ one of the Thrashiest songs on the album with vocals that even sound a little like Dave Mustaine. This leads straight into a chunky riff and drum beat that isn’t as fast one might expect, but definitely groovy, particularly with Tim Rashid’s chugging bassline. The interaction of vocalists Andy B. Franck, David Readman and Jeannette Marchewka are surprisingly understated for the most part, given how well they set Almanac apart from the crowd. There are however some very nice harmonies, particularly in the chorus. The instrumental sections in this song are particularly straightforward, and not as intricate as other offerings on the album. Ultimately, ‘Regicide’ seems an odd choice as an opener, as it’s far from the strongest track on the album.
The second track ‘Children of the Sacred Path’ is much more of a fast-paced Power Metal track, kicking straight in with trilling guitar work before the riffs. This track introduces a particularly 80s feel that permeates the rest of the album. It’s dramatic, energetic, and bombastic. The instrumental bridges and solos in this track definitely have more attitude that ‘Regicide,’ and the overall effect of this song is much stronger.
The drama continues with the stirring ‘Guilty as Charged.’ If anything, this track brings to mind heavier Nightwish songs that balance chunky riffs with symphonic bombast. The sound is very full in this track, particularly thanks to the contributions of the three vocalists. Once again Almanac sit somewhere between Power and Thrash, somewhat in the vein of Jag Panzer – though the tinkling synths in the bridge bring Nightwish back to mind. Overall this track stirs the emotions in a very 80s way, bringing to mind the moralised good versus evil struggles of the era.
‘Hail to the King’ is unfortunately the weakest track on the album, with a choral intro that segues awkwardly into the Metal elements that then move into a synth-driven, 80s-influenced track. The piano-style keys aren’t really working in this track, while the synths are a better fit. Overall the track just doesn’t feel very settled or cohesive. The strongest element is the instrumental section, which is a little harsher and more interesting. Had the rest of the track been built out of the vibe of that section, it could have been a real winner.
‘Losing my Mind’ is a standout track, and became the lead single for obvious reasons with its catchy chorus and hooks. Though it’s pretty straightforward musically, the rumbling bassline is set off nicely by the synths, and there’s a bit of interesting distortion on the vocals.
Interesting, the emotive intermezzo that’s also the title track, ‘Kingslayer,’ features Smolski’s most impressive guitar playing on the album. A very dramatic piece, it could have served well as an intro to the album.
‘Kingdom of the Blind’ showcases another feature bassline from Rashid, carrying the galloping pace of the track. Highlighted also are the three vocalists, verses and choruses. This is possibly the strongest track on the album, bringing together all the best elements of Almanac in a way that really works.
The full 80s assault returns with ‘Headstrong’ a very groovy and bass-driven track with some very cool vocal calls and responses. ‘Last Farewell’ by contrast is slow and tranquil, with some truly beautiful vocal work.
The album closes with the crunchy, riffy ‘Red Flag,’ a giant of a track that deserves to have been a lot further forward on the album. There a real sense of urgency and intrigue that suits the “Kingslayer” motif. Franck, Readman and Marchewka really come into their own here, both individually and harmonised. Though it could have served well earlier, it’s also a cracker of an ending to the album.
While not without its flaws, there’s a lot to like about the sophomore release from Almanac. Their identity is emerging in their triple vocal chorus and dynamic basslines, and no doubt they’ll continue to refresh the Power Metal genre with a liberal infusion of Thrash attitude in their future work.