Style : Progressive Metal
Rating : 3¾ / 5
Summary : Operation Mindcrime Jr.
Let’s give credit where it’s due: Heavy-metal band Kingcrow deserves kudos for producing a very ambitious progressive-metal concept album. It has all the elements – a complicated story, narrative and voiceovers, sound-effect samples, metal with genuine progressive elements, and some very fluid guitarwork.
The storyline is a made-for-movies thriller with just a touch of sci-fi: A man discovers that his employers are involved in a diabolical plot to create human life in a mechanical uterus. Determined to stop them he shares the story with a friend, and the plot follows a Hollywood-esque maze of temptation, suspense, betrayal, insanity and regret.
Kingcrow is an Italian 5-piece outfit which seems to revolve – in large measure – around the vocalist and the dual guitarists. Ignoring a string of promo releases, Insider is just the second full-length release in their 5-year existence. 11 Songs in 49 minutes, one tracks at 8½ minutes, two are under 2 minutes and the rest are 3 to 5 minutes long; and each cut represents a chapter in the saga. So it’s an ambitious project for a relatively unknown band, and it has its high and its low points:
The guitarwork is very solid. Good soloing, nice changes of pace ranging from elegantly played acoustic-styled tones through to clever riff-duets, and crunchy rhythms. Keys are present though not always evident because they’re usually mixed way into the background, and bass and drums are solid if not stellar. And the vocals will be a point of widely varying opinions. The delivery is fluid in the classic metal style, but with only the occasional Geoff Tate switch into falsetto wailing. This yields smooth, competent singing without much excitement. The occasional power-metal style 2- and 3-part vocal harmonies add welcome texture.
The album is punctuated with brief snippets of narrative. Each segment is just a few seconds long, and is designed to advance the plot. They do that very well, but their contribution to the overall listening experience is questionable. These little interruptions are in badly accented English, they are very unconvincing, and they do not stand the test of multiple replays. The story is a good one but it is difficult, and the nature of the plot is somewhat uncommon for metal and you get the idea the band is straining to make the music fit the story.
Although those voice-overs and that awkward concept detract from the piece, the instrumentation is very good, the songwriting is strong, the concept is admirable, and subject to personal taste, the vocals are very competent. You can’t help tipping a hat to the bombast, the ambition, and – by the way – the self-production that went into this piece. Insider is an all-round good listen.