Article By: Pat ‘Riot’ Whitaker ‡ Edited By: Leanne Ridgeway
Before we delve into dissecting the newly released, fourth full-length album from N.Y.C.’s KINGS DESTROY, ‘Fantasma Nera’… let me say that I absolutely love this band!
There, with that out-of-the-way, we now know where I stand. My amorous affection for this musical entity started with the first time I heard them, via 2010’s ‘And The Rest Will Surely Perish‘ album. From there, I’ve fallen ever harder for them over the span of albums released since, my appreciation for them has cultivated by means of several live experiences, as well. I think it is safe to say that my own impassioned intensity for KINGS DESTROY is fueled by several things, with one of the most important being their continual reinvention of themselves.
Album after album, EP, single, or what have you, this band never outright recycles that which has been previously musically presented. No, they accommodate whatever contemporary stimuli may be presently influencing them, and run it through their own talented beings, then channel the inspired results outward. From there, it is then captured in the recording studio, in this record’s case, by none other than famed producer David Bottrill (Tool, Dream Theater, King Crimson, Staind). But in the process, the band – singer Steve Murphy, drummer Rob Sefcik, bassist Aaron Bumpus, and guitarists Chris Skowronski and Carl Porcaro – allow their collective roots to also run unimpeded.
For ‘Fantasma Nera‘, we find these five seemingly locked into a whole new approach to bringing their music to life, one where a wider scope of creativity is explored. In this 10-song movement, KINGS DESTROY renders an artistic work unlike any of their previous outings, one where the sonic tightrope is navigated swift-footed and steadfast. The guys deftly dance into the dark hues and melancholic areas they have become so well-known for cavorting within. Songs like the title track “Fantasma Nera“, “Unmake It“, or the remarkable “Bleed Down The Sun“, are striking cuts that hemorrhage with the gloomy undercurrents typically associated with the band.
As a longtime fan of KINGS DESTROY, I find myself quickly picking up on some altogether new vibes occurring within the songs on this outing, as well. First is an unmistakably commercial aspect to many of them, which may partly be attributable to Bottrill’s involvement, to some degree. As far as I am concerned, there is nothing wrong with imparting ones’ music with qualities that may possess the potential to appeal to a larger swath of listeners. That is, as long as it results organically from the song-crafting process, as a natural component of that, and not a contrived, or somehow forced, additive.
Knowing the KINGS DESTROY quintet as I do, I have no hesitation in saying that there is not a “sell-out” capable bone between the entire five of them, and I respect that. God knows, if there was ever a band that might be tailor-made for mainstream “success” with a bit of formulaic tweaking, these New Yorkers could be the ones to fit the bill. Just listen to a song like “Barbarossa” or “Dead Before” and, with a little imagination, you will hear the indicators that hint at KINGS DESTROY having what it takes to inspire some large-scale mass appeal madness.
The second prognostic nouveau, or “new vibe” if you prefer, is a more pronounced, Gothic new wave music presence within much of the ‘Fantasma Nera‘ contents. Many of the tracks previously mentioned have a feel to them that seems influenced by the likes of early U2 or The Cult, Sisters Of Mercy, The Church, or similar acts. Maybe that is just me culling such a feeling from them, maybe not, but that nuance is there, at least to me.
Something else here, that is indeed all me through and through, are the stellar stand-out songs that I find myself gravitating toward. On this particular album, they come in a trio of tracks that, ironically, all fall in consecutive order in the listing, beginning with “Yonkers Ceiling Collapse“. This is quintessential KINGS DESTROY doing what they do best, i.e. heavy riffery, gestating grooves, and battering drum work amid an unwavering state of somberness. Then, while all of that is enthralling you, pulling you ever deeper in, Steve delivers his ever poignant vocals, ones littered with insightful, inspired lyrics derived from a real-life situation. In this particular case, they are “about a good friend of ours who has been fighting a long and largely losing battle with drugs...” as guitarist Carl Porcaro recently told Pure Grain Audio.
From there, we jump headlong into what may be my favorite composition on this record, “Seven Billion Drones“. This chugging number pulses with a plethora of relatable qualifiers, from that infectious, fuzzed-out line that leads us in right from the start, to the real-time, up to the minute subject. Augmented by its emotion emitting music, acute vocals, and perceptive lyrics, this song proffers us a proliferate truth to embrace: Ultimately, technology shall be our downfall…. unless we “unbelieve the shit that isolates us… unbelieve the shit that makes us hate”.
Now, for an album that seemingly accepts the challenge to defy expectations, embraces the notion of experimentation, and epitomizes a collective’s shared musical evolution, one song may embody it all. “You’re The Puppet” is one of the most unique, yet unusual creations to ever grace the KINGS DESTROY repertoire, in my opinion. A song truly like no other, this is the aural encapsulation of the band’s envelope-pushing, outside-the-box approach to the song crafting process of this particular recording.
I interpret it as a “forget what you think you know, this is where we are at this moment” type statement, but in reality that holds true for the whole of ‘Fantasma Nera‘. This seems to be an album derived, to an extent, from the band themselves disregarding their own past. It brazenly obliterates the mold fabricated by previous albums, opting instead for a redefining overhaul of KINGS DESTROY as a band. The resulting, phenomenally superb outcome can neither be overstated nor oversold, for ‘Fantasma Nera‘ is an awesomeness materialized.
Stream the album above in this review or redirect to Bandcamp [HERE] for further streaming and purchase options.
KINGS DESTROY will embark upon an eastern U.S. tour supporting UFOMAMMUT in April and May, followed by appearances at the 2019 editions of two Riff Relevant co-sponsored events: May’s New England Stoner And Doom Festival and Maryland Doom Fest in late June. Find the touring itinerary and other scheduled appearances listed below.
– KINGS DESTROY U.S. Tour Dates –
Apr. 23 – Brooklyn, NY – Saint Vitus Bar *
Apr. 24 – Philadelphia, PA – Kung Fu Necktie *
Apr. 25 – Boston, MA – Sonia *
Apr. 26 – Montreal, QC – Le Ritz *
Apr. 27 – Toronto, ON – Hard Luck *
Apr. 28 – Cleveland, OH – Grog Shop *
Apr. 30 – Chicago, IL – Reggies *
May 01 – Lexington, KY – Cosmic Charlies *
May 02 – Atlanta, GA – 529 *
May 03 – Durham, NC – Pinhook *
May 04 – Richmond, VA – Richmond Music Hall *
* w/ UFOMAMMUT