It tends to be worth going into bands like Concrete Kingdoms with tempered expectations. Not only does a hard rock band primarily fixated on influences from multiple decades ago and little else inspire little in the way of confidence, but given how many dull, dated acts have emerged from that scene lately, any hope that a new one will be anything different becomes severely diminished.
The thing with Concrete Kingdoms though, is that their self-titled debut EP does in fact seem to be a bit better than the usual middling bar set for acts like this. It’s hard to explain why as well; at heart, this is still very much meat-and-potatoes hard rock without any real innovation, though the lack of dour post-grunge trundling definitely helps in keeping these four tracks a lot sharper and more condensed. There’s a certain degree of tact to Time To Play and Speed Demon thanks to some extra flourish in the guitars (particularly with the nice addition of more prominent riffs and solos), and while Matt Hawthorne isn’t an outstanding vocalist by any stretch, there’s a light, easygoing charm to his performance that’s straightforward enough to work.
None of that is to say that Concrete Kingdoms are a great band, because given the fairly meagre evidence here – both in terms of physical track presence and how no-frills this all is – they’re most definitely not. There’s definitely a case of playing to influences here, and while it’s more excusable for a band as new as this, the lack of anything else really hinders what to expect going forward. Granted, there’s still plenty of time for Concrete Kingdoms to grow, but as of now, these four tracks aren’t positioning that as an intention, and it causes the likelihood of them falling in line with the revival rock crowd to shoot up.
Even if that was the case though, they’d probably be one of the better bands in that group, purely because of a knowledge of refined melody that makes this a much more listenable release. That alone isn’t going to put Concrete Kingdoms at the front of any hype train or anything, but for as starved for real quality as upcoming hard rock bands have been lately, it’s at least refreshing to see one that are somewhat changing that.
For fans of: Audioslave, Foo Fighters, AC/DC
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Concrete Kingdoms’ by Concrete Kingdoms is released on 17th August.