ScreamKing of Michigan City, Indiana shows off a technical power metal style similar to Cage or Helstar on their second full-length album. The vocals vary from husky baritones to dabbling in growls and high pitched screeches ala Sean Peck, the drums largely opt for double bass beats, and the guitars have the expected array of fast chugs and scorching lead work. But while these ideas all work for plenty of bands out there and I’m a huge sucker for anything with the USPM tag, the execution falls rather flat on Tyranny of the Sea.
For starters, the musicianship seems to be somewhat off throughout. The ScreamKing guys all know how to play their instruments but there isn’t a lot of chemistry that can be felt between them. There are several moments where the band members don’t quite gel and go a step ahead or behind one another, resulting in sloppy performances of stilted melodies. The production also makes everything feel more jumbled as the guitar tone is a bit too mechanical for my tastes and the vocal acrobatics seem forced most of the time.
The songwriting is also forced and unfocused through most of the album, opting for technicality and aggression for their own sake. The riffs are often set at a mid-tempo pace, building up to something that usually doesn’t come, while the vocals avoid any sense of conventional catchiness in favor of lines that are almost deliberately off-putting. Attempts to expand their soundscape can also be found on the tribal sounds that open “War Horse” and the Therion-esque “Faith Weapon,” but they don’t always bring lasting contributions to the songs themselves.
But with all this said, the songs themselves are pretty short and power metal fans should enjoy some of these tracks. While the vocal lines are often beaten into the ground after a while, “Feeding on the Predator” and “I Am a Viking” (Sorry, not an Yngwie cover) are fairly memorable and the bass line on “Halo of Fear” has a solid groove to it. The seven minute “End of the World” isn’t exactly “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” but it does closes things out on a slightly more epic note with a pleasant folk bridge to match.
ScreamKing isn’t a terrible band by any means but I imagine Tyranny of the Sea is what power metal sounds like to people who don’t enjoy power metal. The musicianship and sense of grandiosity that are certainly on display may be enough for some listeners, but disconnects between the band members make the already rocky songwriting even more challenging to get a feel for. I feel like ScreamKing has potential to be a strong band, but it may take some honest evaluation of their approaches to songwriting and performance to really get there.
“I Am A Viking”
“Halo of Fear”
“Feeding on the Predator”
“End of the World”