rating icon 8 / 10

Track listing:

01. Kingmaker
02. Rise Above
03. The Traveler
04. Hellfire
05. Chasing The Rainbow
06. Ashes And Fire
07. Burn it Down
08. Fall Of A Common Man
09. Sounds Of The Night
10. Renegade

By this point, it should be obvious that old-school heavy metal will never die. Despite what certain media outlets would prefer us to believe, there will always be bands emulating the '80s glory days. Because for all the myriad subgenres and offshoots that heavy music has served up over the decades, you still can't beat the sound of JUDAS PRIEST or IRON MAIDEN at full blast. Facts is facts. If liking ACCEPT is wrong, I don't want to be right. And so on. Meanwhile, there are always newer bands to get excited about, and while SCREAMER have been around for more than a decade, they are comparative youngsters compared to the aforementioned greats.

But over the course of four full-length albums, the Swedes have proved themselves to be a cut above the wish-it-was-1982 pack. 2019's "Highway Of Heroes" was a particularly great record, full of highly convincing and memorable old-school anthems, and with a production that was never self-consciously retro nor sonically thin as a result. On their fifth album, and their first for STEAMHAMMER, SCREAMER have moved even further away from those thin and reedy sound values that bands often mistake for authenticity. "Kingmaker" is a straight-ahead, melodic metal album that owes an unapologetic debt to the '80s, but it sounds big, full and thunderous: just as the classics did at the time, unknowing as we were about what the future would hold. The result of this shrewd decision is that these songs are untethered to any era and can simply exist as the excellent heavy metal tunes that they are.

"Kingmaker" itself is a bombastic opener, with shades of DOKKEN that only a fool would disavow. "Rise Above" is a superlative chunk of MAIDEN worship with some thrilling moments of twin-lead harmony; "The Traveler" is a windswept showstopper with an irresistible whiff of AOR. "Hellfire" is another MAIDEN-like thumper with KISS-style harmony vocals. "Chasing The Rainbow" is the album's slipperiest curveball: a speed metal skull-rattler, its rippling waves of organ come straight from the URIAH HEEP handbook, whilst underpinned by a HELLOWEEN-like forward sprint. Similarly, "Ashes And Fire" embraces the dramatic pomp of the symphonic set and the incremental forward march of epic doom, like a Euro-metal remake of "The Sign of the Southern Cross". After that, "Burn It Down"'s high-octane clatter and the Randy Rhoads-saluting "Sounds Of The Night" (again, with those DOKKEN vibes) stand out, but really there are no weak spots here.

SCREAMER play it and sing it like they mean it, and they don't hide behind nostalgia. Nobody needs to remake "Killers" (again),  but we will always needs timeless, unpretentious and uplifting heavy metal records: "Kingmaker" fits that bill admirably.

Author: Dom Lawson
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