Album Review: King Kraken - Chaos Engine
Reviewed by Paul Hutchings
Last week saw the breaking news that South Wales metal machine King Kraken had signed to Metal Rocka Recordings, part of the Off Yer Rocka stable. In a year of waist high brown stuff, this was a rare highlight and incredibly well deserved. Anyone who knows of the band or who caught their triumphant slot in February’s HRH Metal show at the Birmingham Academy will be in no doubt that this is a band who are motoring at full speed towards big things. The room was packed, the crowd were spellbound, and the band were ferocious. Fired up by this success, they spent the next week locked away in the studio with renowned producer Romesh Dodangoda. And then the pandemic broke and the brakes were applied. Now, with the announcement of their label signing and the promise of a new album in what we can only hope will be a better new year, the fruits of that week’s labour have been released in the form of the ‘Chaos Engine’ EP.
King Kraken comprise five gnarly, old school musicians who’ve done their time in the South Wales scene. Formed in late 2018, the quintet took the 2019 M2TM competition by the scruff of the neck, powering to the final where they gave a great account of themselves, only losing out to the power of winners Blind Divide and the class of Fallen Temples by a whisker. They gig hard, travelling across the country to spread their green message, “beware the Kraken”.
The first thing to note about ‘Chaos Engine’ is the production. Comprising two newer songs and two rerecorded tracks from their first self-titled EP, the sound is huge. The mix is clean and allows each band member’s input to be heard without a fight. You can hear Karl Meyer’s driving bass lines on the title track without effort, locked in tight with the gigantic drum sound of Richard Meyers. Meanwhile the slicing guitar work of Pete Rose and Adam Kowalski Healey cuts through like the proverbial knife through butter, allowing frontman and prowling papa bear Mark Donoghue to roar in his inimitable style. ‘Chaos Engine’ is a rager of a song, a ferocious driving stoner edged piece with a beautiful break down in the middle which allows Healey to slip in a deliciously sweet solo before the band conclude with even more ferocity.
‘Chaos Engine’ is bookended by ‘Castle of Bone’ and sandwiched in the middle are the two rerecorded tracks, ‘The Grey’ and ‘Freak’. All different in style, all heavy and formidable. ‘The Grey’ contains a strong message, the lyrics poignant and personal. The track is improved massively by the production once more, the slower first section of the song more pronounced before the song takes off into an almost thrash metal second half. A searing solo from Healey cuts through the darkness, all the time embracing the blues influences that dominate his superb playing. Disappointingly the band have dropped the bell, a feature on the original. I understand from the band that this was a controversial decision so maybe the less said the better.
If you’ve seen Kraken live or listened to their first EP, you’ll be familiar with the beast that is ‘Freak’. A track that remains the Kraken anthem, it’s loud, boisterous and in your face. A real brooding, muscular song, this is essence of the band. The EP concludes with the other newer song, ‘Castle of Bone’, which changes direction with a sludgy, grungy feel, reminiscent of
Alice in Chains in terms of the main riff. Another song that will be familiar to those who’ve seen the band live, the song demonstrates one of the strengths of the band; they can mix it up. ‘Castle of Bone’ changes pace and direction but never loses any of the passion and energy.
For a band, whose finest work comes in the live arena, this EP is a solid representation of their firepower. There is much more to come from this band, but for now, you should really get yourself a piece of one of the most exciting bands to come out of South Wales since Budgie.