The Kingdom



by GreaseBox USER (6 Reviews)
February 7th, 2022 | 4 replies

Release Date: 2020 | Tracklist

Review Summary: An OK and fun but rather edgeless attempt at a new edge.

It’s really impressive how Woodstock 99 ended up being a tomb for so many 90s household names, at least in terms of relevance. With the exception of acts like Creed, Godsmack and Limp Bizkit, who survived into the early 2000s with some smash hits, big bands like Collective Soul, Live and Bush dove into sharp decline after their deliveries in that historical show. Such was their decline that, with time, their new albums appealed only to their loyal fanbase, turning them into nostalgia acts sustained by high quality live shows carried by their 90s hits. Bush, for example, puts great live performances commanded by Gavin Rossdale’s undeniable charisma and seemingly endless energy.

But nowadays, that’s pretty much it. The British-American post-grunge band didn’t age as fine wine in terms of new material, with a very inconsistent musical library that ranged from the pretty cool (with the beachy, fresh “The Sound of Winter”) to the dull (“Man on the Run”) and the downright ugly (like the crappy “Black and White Rainbows” (ugh)). With “The Kingdom”, however, you can see Rossdale & Co. were actually trying to bring a new, fresh edge to the table, citing new influences like System of a Down and metal for their new creative process.

And for a band like Bush, so historically attached to grunge and alt rock, that’s a very interesting direction. If influences like those are thoroughly embraced without playing too safe, a band like Bush could (at least in principle) show a new edge. Unfortunately that was not the case, and the end result was a pretty half-assed attempt at a new edge that would only appeal to their classic fanbase and wouldn’t even shed a blink of the spotlight over them.

Overall, “The Kingdom” sounds like the SOAD influence barely made them sustain the Drop D tuning a little while longer than usual (since they already used that tuning before in songs like “The Disease of the Dancing Cats”, from “The Science of Things” (1999)), mess around more than usual with the minor scale, instead of the major or pentatonic scale that built past hits like “Glycerine”, “Everything Zen”, “Little Things” and “Comedown”, and putting forward angrier, aggressive lyrical content and imagery through songs like “Blood River”, “The Kingdom” and “Bullet Holes”.

That’s pretty much all, folks - which is pretty disappointing, given Rossdale’s claims that their new album would actually be edgy and pretty harder. And even though it is harder, it’s not that different from what they did before. Gavin’s words were promising, but the end result didn’t deliver as much as was promised.

This could’ve been a great opportunity for Chris Traynor to put aside his clean-cut, precise playing and embrace a grungier, filthier sound, like Nigel Pulsford did in Bush’s earlier albums. That would give a nice dose of chaos to enhance the album’s heaviness, but it’s nowhere to be found. He’s a good guitar player, but his style sounds as if he’s still playing with Page Hamilton in Helmet. Clean-cut heaviness is great for that band, but he could mess around more in here.

Gavin Rossdale didn’t up the game in the lyrics department, either. He’s good at putting some interesting imagery out there, but his lyrics end up shooting in different directions at every line, making any sort of concrete interpretation almost impossible.

Except for “The Kingdom”, where you can safely know where he’s going (namely, a support message for the liberal protest movements in countries like the UK and USA), I think not much can be said about the rest. For example, in “Bullet Holes” he sings:

I'm on the highway, I'm walking 'cross America
Sweat stain in my blue suede shoes
Race wars, Star Wars, planet wars, mind wars
Tryna find ways to get to you
Always on the precipice, candy wish
So what would you prescribe?
'Cause every moment's something sacred, yeah
It's such a wild ride

It seems hard to realize where he’s getting at with lyrics like that, which seems as if he thinks that the more vague you get, the better. But lyrics don’t work like that: you can’t be too literal, but can’t be as ethereal and abstract as he is, either.

And at this point, with all this “ranting” so far, you may be thinking why the hell did I rate this album as a 3, since what I said so far points towards a 2 or something. First of all, these criticisms don't suffice to make it a bad album: they rather prevent it to actualize its full potential and stand out in the band's discography like Sixteen Stone does, since it has very good moments. And I left the good for last.

In the better side of things, this is a fun listen to their fanbase and, even if you’re not a fan, this is a nice record to put if you want to listen to some safe, easy-to-swallow hard rock. And on top of that, “The Kingdom” offers some real nice treats such as “Bullet Holes”, the album’s absolute highlight.

In spite of the weird lyrics, it’s arguably one of the best songs Bush has ever written. The ominous bass intro, the gasoline-fueled riffs, the simple but powerful tremolo soloing and the solid singing puts together an adrenaline injection that reminds us a lot of Bush’s good ol’ days. The title track also offers a simple but cool and hard rocking riff that makes up for the goofy lyrics, which are (again) not my cup of tea.

“Flowers in a Grave” offers a better lyrical effort with a buzzier sound, giving another good song to vibe around a little bit. Finally, among the album’s highlights “Blood River” offers another rather heavy riff for Bush’s overall standards and a similar tone to “Bullet Holes” and “The Kingdom”. So it’s another fun, hard rocking song that will please Bush’s fans and people who likes some effortless hard rock.

Overall, “The Kingdom” has very good moments amidst merely OK ones, and therefore qualifies merely as a "good at best" record. It’s not a bad album at all, it’s just a pretty standard output that could’ve been much better if Gavin & Co. didn’t play safe and dared to sharpen their knives. It sounds like a record made by a band stuck in a paradoxical situation where they must push the envelope and innovate in order to regain relevance, but at the same time risk alienating their own classic fanbase while doing so.

With that context taken into account, “The Kingdom” is nothing more than what you’d expect beforehand: an attempt at a new edge that achieves a slightly more aggressive effort, with that same-as-always post-grungy, polished and “safe” vibe that will work as a fun listen but won’t blow any minds (not even in Bush’s loyal fanbase).

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Comments:Add a Comment 
February 7th 2022


Album Rating: 3.0

Glad this got a review.

Staff Reviewer
February 7th 2022


good review trash album art

February 7th 2022


Album Rating: 3.0

Their best post-reunion album imo

February 9th 2022


Album Rating: 3.0

Yup it's definitely a Bush album. Lots of meh with a few great tracks hidden in it. But I'm a fan nonetheless.

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