Kings of Mercia
Kings of Mercia


3.3
great

Review

by Trey STAFF
September 23rd, 2022 | 39 replies


Release Date: 09/23/2022 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Jim Matheos of Fates Warning returns to his hard rock roots.

For those unaware, Fates Warning is over (or at least on indefinite hiatus). In the opening of their recently released book, Destination Onward, the author talks as if the band is through even though no other announcement has ever been made. Apparently, they quietly called it quits after the release of Long Day Good Night – an album littered with hints that it was indeed going to be their swansong. Whether Fates Warning is over or not, it didn’t take the various members long to find other projects after Long Day Good Night’s release. Ray Alder re-teamed with long-time Fates Warning drummer Mark Zonder on A-Z, and Jim Matheos started working on the songs that would eventually become Kings of Mercia’s debut album. So, what does a songwriter known for forty years of complex prog do when his band comes to an end? It’s not jump straight to another complex prog project, that’s for sure.

When Jim Matheos first started writing for this album, he didn’t give himself any direction or limitations. After writing a few songs, he found they were a bit more straightforward than he was used to (which I’m sure he appreciated after Fates Warning), and he eventually settled into the idea of writing songs that went back to his hard rock roots. The first song he wrote, “Wrecking Ball”, is representative of the entire album. It features a simple verse/chorus format, a rhythmic drum beat that is easy to latch on to, a prominent chorus, and Jim’s chunky guitar riffs. If it wasn’t for Jim Matheos’ riffs, the song would fit comfortably with any 70s or 80s-inspired hard rock band. Kings of Mercia isn’t just Jim Matheos, though, there are three other solid musicians present.

Kings of Mercia is rounded out by vocalist Steve Overland, Drummer Simon Phillips, and Fates Warning bassist Joey Vera. Anyone familiar with Fates Warning (or Armored Saint) should be accustomed to Joey Vera and his fat groovy style, but you should still know that the simpler rock of Kings of Mercia really features his style and is a highlight. Without all the tangents, nuances, and dual guitar harmonies of Fates Warning, Joey Vera is really allowed to shine. Songs such as “Sweet Revenge” sit on the solid groove created by Joey’s bass, and even venture into a brief funk style about two-thirds of the way through. On lighter songs such as “Everyday Angels” he provides the foundation for the clean guitars and emotive vocals. His counterpart on drums isn’t any slouch either.

Simon Phillips played drums in various rock and new wave bands in the 80s and was in Toto from 1992 to 2014. With Kings of Mercia, he lays down a simple beat that is easy to catch the groove while providing just enough flourish to keep things from sounding stale. Honestly, he reminds me of Gavin Harrison of Porcupine Tree with way he can craft beats that feel simple and accessible while still being an obvious master of his craft. In any rock band, the vocalist is what is really going to make or break a band, and fortunately Steve Overland fits in perfectly. Steve Overland is a British vocalist that was in a rock band called FM through the 80s and early 90s. To me, though, he doesn’t sound like your typical 80s rock vocalist. If you’ve heard the raspy singing of Evergrey vocalist Tom Englund, then you have a general idea of what to expect, except Steve Overland range seems to be a little larger and his style a little more expressive.

Anyone expecting Kings of Mercia to be another progressive metal band in the vein of Fates Warning, Arch/Matheos, or even OSI are in for a surprise. Kings of Mercia is a sophisticated hard rock band that harkens back to the traditional sounds of the 70s and 80s, but with a few modern twists. Each member brings something to the music that allows it to be more than just a generic homage to a different era. There are the chunky riffs of Jim Matheos, the energetic rhythms of Joey Vera and Simon Phillips, and the vocals of Steve Overland that have just enough grit to stay out of the stereotypical rock sound. Together they’ve created a consistent hard rock album full of strong choruses, memorable riffs, solid vocals, and even the occasional shreddy Jim Matheos guitar solo.




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user ratings (13)
3.2
good

Comments:Add a Comment 
Willie
Moderator
September 23rd 2022


20105 Comments

Album Rating: 3.2

My two recommended tracks:

Sweet Revenge: https://kingsofmercia.bandcamp.com/track/sweet-revenge

Your Life: https://kingsofmercia.bandcamp.com/track/your-life

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
September 23rd 2022


9842 Comments


Informative review, virtual pos.

While reading, I remembered when classic heavy metal emerged in the '80s, '70s hard rockers were calling it "hard rock".

They still do, while voiding the more extreme metal genres that came after it.

So, back to the roots it is for Matheos and friends.

TheNotrap
Staff Reviewer
September 23rd 2022


18220 Comments


I'll be checking those two tracks today.

Gnocchi
Staff Reviewer
September 23rd 2022


17885 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Gonna add this to the 2022 mandatory playlist.

Willie
Moderator
September 23rd 2022


20105 Comments

Album Rating: 3.2

--So, back to the roots it is for Matheos and friends.--

Yeah, I think it could be something you like though. It's not Fates Warning, though. It's even further removed from Fates Warning than A-Z actually.



--I'll be checking those two tracks today.--

--Gonna add this to the 2022 mandatory playlist. ---


Interested in hearing your thoughts.

Gnocchi
Staff Reviewer
September 23rd 2022


17885 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

-Interested in hearing your thoughts.-



To be fair, that 3.3 of yours isn't a high urgency pull. Hoping this more than fills the gaps of 'casual listening' while I'm at work and looking for that 'safe' non-uber-death metal playlist that won't scare the apprentices. Fingers crossed.



I put on some late 90's early 00's nu-metal the other day and had to explain that all those boppers came out before these kids were even born...

Willie
Moderator
September 23rd 2022


20105 Comments

Album Rating: 3.2

I mean it's 'great-ish'. I'm just not the biggest fan of straight ahead rock. The redeeming factor is Matheos' riffs and overall songwriting, really. Definitely a good 'safe' work listen.

Gnocchi
Staff Reviewer
September 23rd 2022


17885 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

It'll get a couple runs for sure. Will report back sometime during the week.

Nagrarok
September 23rd 2022


8658 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Definitely more straightforward than FW but those Matheos riffs are as recognizable as ever.

ChaoticVortex
September 23rd 2022


1393 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I've heard 2-3 songs from this project and enjoyed it. Love how even with the more hard rock direction Matheos still manages to carry that melancholic melody he does in FW. That's how you recognize a guitarist.

Willie
Moderator
September 23rd 2022


20105 Comments

Album Rating: 3.2

Yeah, he definitely maintains that melancholic feel whether he's playing prog, post rock, or even new age instrumental music.

MoM
September 23rd 2022


995 Comments


Amazing album cover.

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
September 23rd 2022


9842 Comments


— Yeah, I think it could be something you like though.

Based on one, cursory listen, I agree with your rating.

It’s a good album, but on first listen, nothing mind blowing.

Also, when we are talking melodic stuff like hard rock and classic heavy metal, vocals may matter more than anything, and to be honest, I wasn’t amazed here.

Imho, there are far better prospects out there, for instance the guys who sing for Maverick, Sumerlands and Lugnet respectively.

Willie
Moderator
September 23rd 2022


20105 Comments

Album Rating: 3.2

Yeah, he's a solid vocalist delivering solid melodies but he's not going to blow anyone away. Nothing on here is going to blow anyone away. It's just supposed to be a hard rock album... easy to listen to, easy to follow.

Gnocchi
Staff Reviewer
September 24th 2022


17885 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Made it through with no complaints. Perfectly 3/5core.

Willie
Moderator
September 24th 2022


20105 Comments

Album Rating: 3.2

Yep. It's well done, it's solid...

frozencarl
September 25th 2022


998 Comments


this will pair nicely with my current english history kick brought upon by hit television series The Last Kingdom

Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
September 25th 2022


4442 Comments

Album Rating: 3.2

Album cover is pretty sweet.



Some of this jams pretty hard but a fair amount is quite generic, feeling a 3.2 right now.

Willie
Moderator
September 25th 2022


20105 Comments

Album Rating: 3.2

After stepping back from it for a few days and then listening to it again, I think a 3.2 is probably the more accurate sweet spot rating. When I had it on a steady rotation for a few weeks and really paying attention it was more like a shaky 3.3 though... so, I don't know.



Did you listen to the A-Z album. It's not mind blowing either, but it has more going on than this.

Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
September 25th 2022


4442 Comments

Album Rating: 3.2

I haven't heard A-Z... I'm a decently big Fates Warning fan but haven't felt hugely invested in checking these new projects for whatever reason, but did end up checking this one because the mood struck. I may end up checking A-Z as well, that's good to know.



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