Let’s face it, KING 810’s reputation – specifically their chaotic gigs, menacing stage presence, their uber-loyal fan base and their own real-life arrests – proceed them. Following on from their 2014 major label debut, Memoirs of a Murderer, their second album – la petite mort or a conversation with god – offers, or at least threatens, further musical insights into the harsh realities of life in their hometown. Via the street poetry of frontman David Gunn we are reintroduced to Flint, Michigan; a place that the world never hears about, yet one that is as lawless and dangerous as anywhere you might be unfortunate enough to find yourself at ‘kicking-out’ time. But, whenever one boasts of tales from the hard side, the real question comes down to credentials. So lets take a look at KING 810’s.
Favouring the urban metal vibe pioneered by Korn but extensively flirted with by the likes Machine Head during the early nineties, KING 810 tick all the necessary boxes of caveman riffs, apoplectic aggression and lumbering groove. Yet truthfully, it seems a world away from a neatly braided Rob Flynn yelling about freedom reigning with a shotgun blast. With opener “Heavy Lies the Crown” and first single, the “Alpha and Omega” we are drawn into a world of dark social commentary with no attempt to glamourise or aggrandise. “I could tell you about things you’d die never having known and I could take you places you could never, ever go,” Gunn growls early in the proceedings. We’ve heard all this before, but unlike many who have proceeded, we believe him. The rabbit hole goes deeper as he whispers, bellows and raps a heartfelt mixture of cinematic lyric and personal confession throughout the thirteen songs on offer – part Edgar Allen Poe part Ice Cube!
Following on from the stripped back energy of their debut, there is little in the way of florid musicianship here, no complex melody lines parping through the stratosphere, no epic chord progressions, no three part harmonies. It’s all about primal rhythmics, shuffling breakdowns and towering staccato build-ups; KING 810 channelling something akin to the spirit of old skool hip hop transposed to guitar, bass and drums.
However, as you delve further into la petite mort or a conversation with god you quickly discover that these lads can do more than simply give you a kicking while throwing shapes! Things take a sharp left turn with the incredibly evocative “Black Swan”, on which we are told, “I should be writing love songs, should be having children, instead I’m writing letters to the victim’s kids.’ From there on the sonic palette opens up with electronic touches, keyboards, female backing vocals and processed beats. On “Life Isn’t Enough” they effortlessly adopt a darkly erotic trip hop feel, on “Me & Maxine” they sound almost bluesy and way older than their years. Dirty guitars fade into the background but the intensity remains.
La petite mort or a conversation with god has heavy moments aplenty but it’s elsewhere that you get a real sense of who KING 810 really are and more importantly what they could become. The fact that they broke out of their impoverished beginnings and survived to ink a deal with Roadrunner says a lot. The fact that they are mooted as one of the most exciting metal bands on the planet right now says more. But, at the end of the day, it all boils down to the worth of those all important credentials. They talk the talk, do KING 810 walk the walk?
We think they do. La petite mort or a conversation with god is a varied, exciting album that deserves to be heard not just for it’s expertly crafted sonic landscapes but, more importantly, for its unvarnished depiction of a life most of us are lucky enough not to know. 9/10