Kingmaker – Stay Asleep EP (2012)

Chances are, you’ve grown into a love-hate relationship with the word “mature,” as it applies to bands you’re familiar with–chances also are, my incessant advertisement of a band’s “maturing” sound hasn’t helped. On one hand, many times a band’s maturation can bring great changes, enabling them to easily leap previously unscalable hurdles. On the other hand, hearing about your favorite band’s latest sound change in an effort to sound more “mature,” only to find they aren’t the same band you fell in love with can be disheartening. With that in mind, Illinois-based hardcore band Kingmaker have definitely matured on their latest EP, Stay Asleep. While Stay Asleep’s Kingmaker is certainly not the Catacombs Kingmaker we were intrigued by, they have grown even darker than the Less Faith iteration we witnessed earlier this year, into a murky, nihilistic, bitter–but beautiful–hardcore juggernaut.

“Hold your horses,” you’re saying, bewildered, to your computer monitor. “Kingmaker have gotten even darker than they were on Less Faith.” The short answer is: Yes. Yes they have. By combining bitter, malevolent lyrics concerning socio-political and religious topics with deep, muddy instrumentals, Stay Asleep is a wonderfully gloomy masterpiece in which each track drives the listener into a deep, dark musical rut, making them–somehow–happier and happier as they get deeper and deeper. Starting off with the lead single and anthemic “Neo Con,” and bursting right into “Coercionist,” the EP starts off with an ear-shattering gunshot, and rings dissonantly as the release progresses. By employing a “slow burn” type of momentum, Stay Asleep weighs down on the listener like the earth on Atlas’ shoulders–getting ever heavier with time.

From “Neo Con”’s subtle fade in, to “New Left”’s energetic barrage of blast beats and dissonant chord progressions, the listener can certainly identify a fresh take on Kingmaker’s instrumentals. With a greater variation between slow, sludgy sections and brisk, pulverizing sections throughout Stay Asleep, the EP is unlike previous material the band has released. The punchline is this: Kingmaker no longer segregate the doom-laden, gloomy sections and lightning-like, blisteringly quick sections by keeping them in separate tracks. Rather, as seen in “Neo Con,” the band is quite capable of flowing from trudging, sludgy heaviness to intense speed smoothly and quickly within the same track. While, some tracks maintain a certain preference for either style, none of them employ that one tactic on it’s own. Rather, the claustrophobically doomy sections of “Addict” are, indeed, only played up by the track’s moments of brief “clarity.” Clarity, which, of course comes in the form of rollicking blast beats, chug-based riffs and monstrously varied vocal attacks–all elements of Kingmaker’s repertoire which they employ to be a better-than-average back-breaking beatdown act.

Not only does Stay Asleep show Kingmaker using a more refined and effective approach to their established “heavy-fast” dynamic, their instrumentals and songwriting are incredibly adept at adapting to fit either sound. At times, it’s the drums racing along at a breakneck pace, packed with speedy fills and blistering blast beats while the guitars race along with quick-fingered riffs, trying to keep up. At other times, however, it’s crushingly heavy, severely dissonant, pounding guitars with lumbering, flattening drums that move synchronously and devastatingly–as if a steamroller. On top of all of this, Kingmaker are a band which use the contrast of these elements to annihilate the listener; they do not rely on simple, one-note chugs and monotonous breakdowns to be heavy. It’s the doom-and-gloom dissonance on tracks “Coercionist,” and “Violence vs. Violence” which make them such crushing tanks of tracks–especially in the “now-a-days” style of hardcore which uses the chugged-out breakdown as a crutch to limp towards what might be perceived as the genre’s mass grave. It’s a demoralizing picture like this which Kingmaker completely obliterate on Stay Asleep. They take everything the listener might know about dark, heavy hardcore and throw it out the window, completely revitalizing the genre.

Whether or not you feed on anger and nihilism as much as the next guy, or just like some pissed-off hardcore, Stay Asleep is an EP for you. Kingmaker give a breath of much-needed fresh air into a stale, crusty album by incorporating elements of thrash, sludge and doom into their trademarked hardcore dynamic. By doing so, using fresh and beautifully written lyrics to accompany their marvelously composed music, Kingmaker have produced a stunning, late-in-the-game, EP-of-the-year contender.


For Fans Of: Sworn In, Barrier, American Standards, Converge, Gaza

By Connor Welsh ~ Me Gusta Reviews