Search for King 810 online and you’ll come across all kinds of horrific stuff – how their hometown of Flint, Michigan is considered one of the most dangerous places in America, and how on average, at least one person is killed there every week; how their live shows have gained a reputation for being extremely violent with gunmen taking to the stage alongside the band; how frontman David Gunn and bassist Eugene Gill were both arrested for assault, leading to the cancellation of their appearance at Download Festival. Hell, even their Facebook page is adorned with images of people carving the band’s logo into their own flesh. And while initially, this may come across as yet another band peddling controversy for the sake of an image and some exposure, what King 810 will be ultimately judged on is the quality of their music, and on their debut full-length Memoirs Of A Murderer, they’ve crafted one of the most varied, powerful and raw albums to hit heavy music in 2014.
The album is, as is to be imagined, largely based around the band’s hometown, and their frequent encounters with violence and crime, as demonstrated on stomping penultimate track Write About Us. David Gunn’s rasping, impassioned vocals are spat with more spite and hatred that has been documented on record for a long time, while his lyrics are malice-filled but almost poetic in a sense, with prime examples being the two spoken word tracks Anatomy 1:2 and Anatomy 1:3 – while the violent lyrical content may seem a tad over the top without any music to hide behind, the two tracks perfectly show the frontman’s willingness to bare his soul within his lyrics, and simply just what a talented lyricist he actually is. Musically, Slipknot is an obvious reference point – the Iowa troupe’s mark resonates all the way through Memoirs…‘ heavier tracks, with pummeling guitars and roars dominating on the likes of Killem All and the heaving Fat Around The Heart.
There’s another side to King 810 though – while detractors may focus on the admittedly rather basic metal of the album’s more brutal areas, when the volume and tempo are brought down is when the band impress the most. Slipknot is switched for Nick Cave on the blackened folk of Take It, while Devil Won’t Cry is a towering, string-led ballad, and Eyes has an industrial, almost Nine Inch Nails-esque grind that sees it become one of the most sinister of the album’s sixteen tracks. Gunn’s harsh vocals morph into a painful semi-whisper, while delicate acoustic and electronic passages mark the band out as one with a far broader scope than many other metal bands, able to fuse different, non-metal influences into their music whilst still having as much of an impact.
Memoirs Of A Murderer was the album that King 810 needed to pull out. A deeply personal, compelling effort, it shows a band who are not just the peddlers of one-dimensional, flat metal as many believe, but rather a band who are fully willing to embrace a more nuanced take to their music, while maintaining a level of darkness throughout. Few were expecting King 810 to release one of the best metal albums of the year, but here we are…
For fans of: Slipknot, Nick Cave, Downset
Words by Luke Nuttall