By Colonel Angus
I was introduced to SCREAMER a few years ago with their previous release “Highway of Heroes”. I really liked that album and felt that they were definitely a band to keep on my radar. The fact that the great old school traditional heavy metal sound is still alive and doing well really warms my metal heart and SCREAMER flies that flag proudly. It’s abundantly clear that the NWOBHM really influenced SCREAMER but I also hear bits of early RIOT in their sound. They have elements of that sound where hard rock was morphing into heavy metal and that is what really makes SCREAMER stand out from the other traditional metal merchants out there.
“Kingmaker” has a slight difference to their previous record in that some of the rougher edges have been smoothed out. I’m not saying that they have gone soft but I feel that the songwriting and production have moved up a notch. “Highway to Heroes”, in my opinion, had an old school production to the record and while I enjoyed it and it brought me back to that early 80s timeframe, I felt that a more modern production job would have benefited the songs. On “Kingmaker”, the Maiden-ish intro riffs on “Renegade” really stand out with this updated production. In fact, the production throughout is spot-on in keeping that true traditional metal vibe while at the same time updating the sound.
As far a songwriting, “Kingmaker” is full of the same catchy riffing and melody as previous material but they have added some new elements into the mix. The first one to catch my attention that moves slightly away from the pack is “The Traveler” which has this great 80s vibe within the verses but lyrically is sorrowful and leaves the listener with an isolated feeling (not in a bad way – just brings out that emotion). Lyrically, “Ashes and Fire”, “Fall of the Common Man”, and “Sounds Of The Night” are all more mature and while I like the usual metal subject matter of touring, partying, etc., it’s great to have a record that mixes in some other types of stories. SCREAMER has done some of that on “Highway of Heroes” but on “Kingmaker”, it is more pronounced. The other tracks that stick to the game plan like “Hellfire”, “Rise Above”, and “Burn it Down” will have you banging your head and pumping your fist. These songs have all the hallmarks of classic metal; heavy riffs, pounding drums, and screaming vocals. Just like “Highway of Heroes”, “Kingmaker” doesn’t have a bad track but what it does have is a step forward in execution while still staying true to themselves.
SCREAMER has had a few lineups over the years but has been pretty consistent since 2017’s “Hell Machine”. The only change is guitarist Jon Morheim coming in to replace Anton Fingal in 2021. Both Morheim and Dejan Rosic do a great job of coming up with great riff that hooks you in right away. As I mentioned earlier, their influences are on full display with plenty of IRON MAIDEN, SAXON, and other NWOBHM elements. Fredrik Svensson Carlström and Henrik Petersson put in a solid performance by not only laying down a solid foundation but also being the driving force of many of the tracks. A good example would be “Burn it Down” which has a great MOTORHEADish vibe with a little “Spotlight Kid” from RAINBOW thrown in for good measure but when needed, they slow down the pace to let “The Traveler” shine. The cherry on top is Andreas Wikström’s vocal performance which is better than it was on their previous record. I liked his voice before but on “Kingmaker”, he sounds more powerful which may be a byproduct of the better production. Either way, he if one of the better singers in this new breed of metal vocalists. SCREAMER is one band that I will have to keep my eye on as this latest release shows that they can certainly deliver a great set of tunes that will stick in your head for days. 2023 has definitely started off with a bang and “Kingmaker” is a great way to bring in the New Year.