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Review: King King – ‘Exile & Grace’

King KingFans of King King, biding their time until January 2018 brings the rescheduled tour dates, will be happy that the band are releasing their 4th studio album on 6th October. With the tour taking in venues including Shepherds Bush Empire, Birmingham Town Hall and Sheffield Leadmill, it’s easily their biggest tour so far (Details and tickets can be found here.). ‘Exile & Grace’ was recorded at Superfly Studios and mixed by Chris Sheldon (Foo Fighters, Feeder, and Therapy?).

Opener, “(She Don’t) Gimme No Loving”, is blues-rock at its best. This is a really catchy track, and is sure to be a hit, going down well with a whole spectrum of listeners. This is a track to instantly put a smile on your face. It reminded me slightly of early Thunder, which is no bad thing. Featuring singing riffs and the magnificent keys of Bob Fridzema, this is a classic blues-rocker that gets the toes tapping and makes you want to start to dance along. “Heed The Warning” is funky and multi-layered. From the raspy opening chords to the end, this delivers in terms of swagger and energy. The keys give this a 70’s vibe, backed up with the fuzzy tone delivered by the bass. There is so much to grab your attention in this track. Alan’s vocals really stand up and deliver a true King King sound, enriched by the vibrant riffs and hooks.

“Broken” is where we start to see the evolution of King King. They have always been able to put together a catchy track, with great blues guitars and keys, but this track shows the grittier edge they have developed. “Broken” was formed from the uneasiness about the state of the world, dealing with feelings about the conflicts and devastation of war from a humanistic point of view.  It shows how far King King have come. “Find Your Way Home” is a soulful ballad, packed with heavy, emotional vocals and guitars with a melancholy feel. This is a track that tugs at the heart strings, and will have you singing along within the first play. The tension and urgency in Alan’s vocals is evident, as he pleads to “Please find your way home”. “Tear It All Up” shows off what King King do so well, rhythmic blues, with a catchy tune that you instantly know. Written about their experience of playing at Wembley, supporting Thunder, this is from the heart… standing backstage, waiting for the lights to go down and the announcement to be made. Whilst this track has, at its heart, the core of what makes a great King King song, the edgier side shows through in the growling riffs and harder tone. I really enjoy this new edge, and am interested to see how it develops.

Starting with a breath, “Betrayed Me” is a slower, more blissful, blues track. Serving to highlight the quality within King King, this track has it all, from the 70’s sounding, groove-filled organ, to the shimmering riffs and deep bass line. The drums from Wayne Proctor adding yet another layer of intricacy. For a masterclass in 70’s inspired groove and funk, you need look no further than “Long Time Running”. This track has everything you could want, a tune that gets your toes tapping and body moving, rich bass lines, blissful organ and joyous, flamboyant riffs. As the band say, “The only thing missing is a cow bell”, and I think they could have added that in as well. A change of direction comes in the form of “Nobody Knows Your Name”, which has a rock vibe. The guitar tone is harder, with sparkle coming from some of the hooks. This is a true guitar track, with resonant bass line adding fuzz, and thundering drums. “I Don’t Wanna Lie” immediately got my attention. Sounding like a fusion of Stevie Wonder and Thunder, this is a track that will put a smile on your face from the first spacey chords to the gritty chorus. This is one that is sure to go down well live. I can already hear the crowds belting out the chorus.

“Exile & Grace” shows the real development King King have gone through. There are still the beautiful blues based tracks that we know and love, but there is a different feel to this album. It has more intensity, and feels as though this band are learning their place in the world, and are not afraid to say so. There are determination and guts on display here, with enough about it to keep you listening for more.

Pre-order ‘Exile & Grace’ here

Review: Samantha Lamb

Band image: Rob Blackham

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