Almanac - Kingslayer

Almanac Kingslayer cover
Nuclear Blast
Almanac are a cousin of Smolski laden “Rage” and what he did after Rage, decided they no longer needed his services as a writer and guitarist. We held on to Jeannette Marchewka (Lingua Mortis Orchestra) from the last Rage/LMO project and enlisted the vocal talents of Andy B. Franck (Brainstorm, ex-Ivanhoe) and David Readman (Pink Cream 69) as male counterparts, while the bass and drums have seemingly been manned by different people, for each of the two albums so far, with relative unknown Tim Rashid handling bass and Athanasios Tsoukas, who’s worked with Fair Warning, Al bano, Soul Doctor and members of Mother’s Finest, occupying the drum stool.
The style is pretty close to that of the Smolski era Rage albums, guitar centric, symphonic, well-orchestrated power metal that’s really edgy at times… but whereas Tsar felt new, with the introduction of the two male vocalists, things on this rather hastily assembled sophomore only a year after the debut feel a little rushed.
While Smolski has a knack for writing cool guitar parts that seem to be the focal point of the songs, his overall songcraft is debatable… while he’s far from bad – following a strong and promising opening couple of songs things become somewhat stagnant… and only seem to pick up again after the title track, which is more like an intro to “Kingdom of the Blind” and then “Headstrong”, which is quite a strong number and “Last Farewell” that closes the album in a much more melodic way than one might have expected.
While it’s not significantly worse than its predecessor, “Kingslayer” doesn’t manage to really expand the band’s sound or scope particularly well, which seemed to be the problem with the last couple of Smolki led Rage albums, where he seemed to try to pull most of the weight by his own in terms of composition. Readman in particular offers the album a lot of “color” as he compliments Franck’s rougher vocals quite nicely and both seem to contrast nicely with JM.
If you liked LMO/Rage’s latest before the “schism”, enjoyed the last few Rage albums with Smolski and liked Almanac’s debut, you won’t be disappointed, but otherwise, while you’ll be sufficiently entertained, I hardly think you’ll remember this album after a few spins.