Sound Advice: Kings Among Men, by Crimson Shadows
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Sound Advice: Kings Among Men, by Crimson Shadows

The winners of the Wacken Metal Battle are ready for war once again with this sword-rattling epic.

Last year, Toronto-based power metallers Crimson Shadows did something extraordinary: they won both the Canadian and international editions of the Wacken Metal Battle. After securing themselves a spot in the world’s largest outdoor heavy metal festival by taking the Canadian crown, Crimson Shadows impressed judges in Germany and were offered a record contract with Nuclear Blast. But the band ultimately decided to forge their own path following their win, and so their debut will instead be released August 29 on Napalm Records.

Opening with the distant sound of clashing swords, Kings Among Men establishes its devotion to epicness from the start. As the din of battle draws nearer, you can almost see the blistered landscape, as though a camera were panning across it—and this cinematic quality defines the record from beginning to end. With a strong central narrative in the form of a traditional hero’s journey, Kings Among Men is an ambitious, over-the-top record that acknowledges its excesses and revels in them.

With the exception of the intro, “March of Victory,” and the interlude, “On the Eve of Battle,” most of the songs stick to a rigid structure defined by a galloping pace, reminiscent of a battle charge. The solos are positioned to be the highlight of just about every track, and sometimes the songs themselves get lost in the back-and-forth of duelling guitar and bass solos—the narrative elements of the songs sometimes feel like an afterthought, as though the band were having too much fun to notice they’d temporarily dropped the plot. But it’s that spirit of fun that keeps this noodlery joyful rather than pompous. For a sword-rattling, shield-bashing good time, Kings Among Men is a wonderful example of power metal at its most gloriously cheesy.