Review Summary: Very early heavy metal. Very heavy for it's time with some excellent riffs and guitarwork and decent but slightly inconsistent vocals. Recommended for fans of bands like Deep Purple.
Heavy metal is commonly thought to have been pioneered by bands such as Blue Cheer and, of course, Black Sabbath. The very first album to be described in print as ‘heavy metal’ though was Sir Lord Baltimore’s 1970 album Kingdom Come
, in a review for the magazine Creem
. Like the aforementioned bands Sir Lord Baltimore was unpopular with the critics of the time but unfortunately didn’t have the same underground fanbase, causing them to remain obscure despite the quality of the music.
Taking influence from blues-rock and psychedelia, and performing in a power trio format, Sir Lord Baltimore sound quite a lot like a heavier Cream and Blue Cheer. Unlike Black Sabbath though, who created their gloomy heavy sound by slowing the music down, Sir Lord Baltimore’s music is usually very fast-paced and energetic, with the heaviness created by a high amount of distortion in the guitar and sometimes also the bass. As well as this, a huge amount of multi-tracking was used over the guitar to give it extra strength and power, and creating an effect that makes it seem as if more than one guitar is playing. This multi-tracking is what gives the music most of it’s own unique sound.
The album is filled with powerful and catchy Deep Purple-esque riffs, as well as some fantastic Hendrix inspired solos and licks. None of the music is particularly original, save for the obviously heavier sound, but the band manage to create their own sound well with their obvious influences. As well as the guitar, the bass is very prominent. While it usually simply follows the guitar, there are some very impressive bass parts, such as the bass-led introduction to ‘Hard Rain Fallin’’.
The drumming is usually quite simple but is fast paced and creates the energy that the music needs. The drummer, John Garner, also does the vocals, which apparently didn’t work too well when they played live, but the vocals are consistently good on the album.
While Garner doesn’t have a huge range or a particularly unique voice his rough singing is always totally powerful, fitting in perfectly with the heavy music, with him almost shouting the lyrics at times. He also manages to sing well in a mellow tone in the only calm song of the album, the harpsichord and 12-string guitar-led ‘Lake Isle of Innersfree’. At times though, the vocals get so manic they can sound a little silly, but it's easy to ignore. Lyrically, Sir Lord Baltimore are much the same as their peers with songs about love and psychedelic themes, completely different to the Christian themes they‘ve adopted after reforming (without the bassist) in 2006. None of the lyrics are particularly impressive, but they aren’t really the focus here.
While ’Lake Isle of Innersfree’ is a nice calming interlude, it does highlight one problem with the album: despite being quite short at under 40 minutes, there isn’t really much variety in the music. This isn’t a huge problem as all of the songs have fantastic riffs and little filler and the album doesn’t really have time to get boring, but it would have been better to have more songs like ‘Lake Isle of Innersfree’ to break it up a bit more.
While at the time of release this would have sounded much heavier than nearly anything else, nowadays there isn’t a lot that really separates it from other hard rock bands of the same time. Because of this, Kingdom Come
does sound very much of its time, now fitting in completely with bands such as Deep Purple. If you like 70’s hard rock already there isn’t really any reason not to like this, but it probably won’t appeal to those who wouldn’t normally listen to the genre.