Thrash Hits

June 8th, 2010

Album: Kingdom of Sorrow – Behind the Blackest Tears

Kingdom of Sorrow
Behind the Blackest Tears
Relapse Records
07 June 2010

by Hugh Platt

I mean, it’d be far too overly-simplistic just to describe Kingdom of Sorrow as “Hatebreed-meets-Down”, wouldn’t it? Just because it’s the side-project of Hatebreed’s little pitbull, Jamey Jasta, and Down/Crowbar six-stringer, Kirk Windstein. Well, erm, except, errr, it would be too simple, were for the fact that that’s pretty much exactly what the new Kingdom of Sorrow album sounds like.

More to the point, it sounds almost like a Down tribute-album. Kirk Windstein’s guitar tone is slap-bang identical to his work on Down, as is the almost every aspect of the guitar parts, right down to the basics. The riffs switch from a chugging gruffness to a slow-burning southern sludge-drive at the same pace, the solos have that same swampy mugginess he’s always had.

But it’s one thing to stifle a small yawn at a band’s lack of originality, it’s another thing entirely to snub an album full of Kirk Windstein riffs. The fact that they sound like not-quite-as-good echoes of his best work doesn’t detract that they’re still significantly more red-blooded than most other metal. When he slams down the accelerator for tracks like ‘Sleeping Beast’, you kinda wish he’d followed this pattern for more of the album; it’s only a minor niggle, but whispering away in the back of your mind is the though that maybe Windstein would be better off spreading himself a little less thinly and saving some of his more crushing riffs. The last Down album was a disappointment – pull your head out of your ass, fanboys, you know I’m right – and if the next Down record is gonna payoff, then Windstein really ought to keep his best licks closer to his chest. Pretty much everyone except Jamie Jasta would rather have no new Kingdom of Sorrow album and a kickass Down record, rather than a mid-quality release from both.

And speaking of Jamie Jasta, he highlights another of the album’s (small) shortcomings. To be brutally brief, Jamie Jasta is no Phil Anselmo, no matter how much Behind the Blackest Tears suggests he’d like to be. Jasta is a clever, articulate, and highly-competent frontman, and is clearly the driving force behind Hatebreed both on and offstage. He’s a poster child for being a band leader in the 21st Century – he gets out there and promotes his work personally, without sounding like some PR good has crawled up his ass and is using him like a promotional hand-puppet. He’s clearly doing Kingdom of Sorrow out of love for the music – you don’t make an album like this to “cash-in”. This isn’t selling out.

But the problems with Jasta’s vocals are twofold. Firstly, he just hasn’t got Anselmo’s depth and range. Jasta’s is a hoarser, terser bark than Anselmo’s sandpaper drawl. They might both top out at gravelly, hellbeast roar, but Anselmo’s wider palate and his ability to inject depressive soul into his vocals effortlessly merges with this kind of southern swamp-sludge. Jasta’s East coast hardcore roots mesh seamlessly with the more hardcore-influenced tracks, such as the title track, and the aforementioned ‘Sleeping Beast’, but all too often he falls short of the throaty muscle needed for an album like this.

Watch Kingdom of Sorrow’s behind-the-scenes recording diary:

Now I’m aware that for a lot of this review it comes across like I’m giving a beatdown to Behind the Blackest Tears – but it’s definitely worth picking up as a stop-gap release till Windstein gets back on Down (or preferably Crowbar…hey, I can dream!). It’s just not the planet-killer that it looked to be on paper, and we were so hoping would be realised in reality.


Sounds like: Hatebreed, Crowbar, Down
Top Tracks: God’s Law in the Devil’s Land, From Heroes To Dust, Sleeping Beast

Kingdom of Sorrow – Beneath the Blackest Tears tracklisting:
Enlightened to Extinction
God’s Law in the Devil’s Land
Monuments of Ash
Behind the Blackest Tears
Envision the Divide
From Heroes To Dust
Along The Path To Ruin
With Barely A Breath
The Death We Owe
Sleeping Beast
Torchlight Procession
Salvation Denied