I've been an obsessed hard rock/heavy metal fan and collector since the early 1980s. If it's got a good guitar riff and attitude, I'm in.
Kairos—"Queen of the Hill"
Genre: Traditional Heavy/Power Metal
Label: Stormspell Records, 2019
Run Time: 49:19
Stormspell Records' newest signing, Kairos, are comin' at ya straight outta the heavy metal motherland of Gothenburg, Sweden, the legendary city which seems to export a new world-class, bad-ass metal band every couple of weeks. Maybe it's something in the water? These latest contenders to the Swedish trad-metal throne have just released their second full-length disc, Queen of the Hill, through the label (after a digital release on their own earlier this year), and it's an impressively flashy slab of hyperactive power/speed metal that's sure to appeal to fans of the classic, go-for-broke shred-metal combos like Leatherwolf, Vicious Rumors, Steeler, or Racer X. If you love getting your air-guitar on while simultaneously head-banging, Kairos is definitely the band for you!
Queen of the Hill kicks off with the four-on-the-floor barn burner "Reckless Dedication," which lands in a pocket that's somewhere between Painkiller-era Judas Priest and Thundersteel-era Riot. Vocalist Tom Hamstrom is a real find; he's one of those guys who sounds like he'd be just as comfortable fronting a straight-up true-metal combo or a sleazy glam/metal band like Crashdiet. His strong, confident vox soar over the top of the high-velocity guitar work by six-string kill team Carl Ruhede and Emil Beaird. In short, these guys came to SHRED.
"Strike While the Iron Is Hot" is a thumping, mid-paced "we will conquer the universe" anthem loaded with sizzling guitar licks and pounding drum abuse from Viktor Hakan that will get listener's fists in the air. The speed-metal frenzy of "Mr. Nocturne" leads into the slick "Silver Heart," which sounds like an even heavier metal version of Rainbow. "Japanese Steel" opens with a guitar shred-fest that would do Loudness' six string legend Akira Takasaki proud (I assume that was the point?), leading into the six-minute-plus epic "Merciless Domine," which starts off like Somewhere in Time era Maiden before shifting gears into a chugging riff-o-rama that will leave amateur air guitarists with cramped fingers and sore wrists. "Enchanted Age" is the longest track on the album, clocking in at nearly nine minutes, but it never overstays its welcome as it's packed with guitar ear-candy (both electric and acoustic). It may start off on the mellow side, but it develops into a full on speed metal burner by the halfway point.
The title track that closes the album proper features another dizzying array of riffage, as well as a pretty damn legit bass breakdown from Viktor Envall, while Hamstrom screams his ass off for all he's worth.
Stormspell's version of Queen of the Hill includes a bonus track which wasn't available on the band's self-released digital version. "Steel Armor" is a decent enough track in a chugging, old-school sort of way, but the sound quality of this particular song is noticeably different from the rest of the album. I can only assume that this was a leftover demo or rehearsal recording that was added to Stormspell's re-issue, as an extra-value item. Either way, it ends the disc on a suitably vintage head banging note.
"Queen of the Hill"
Summing It Up
They may be Swedish, but Kairos somehow manages to perfectly nail the vibe of early '80s U.S. metal, when many bands were trying to balance the slick commercial appeal of Van Halen with the balls-to-the-wall intensity of Judas Priest and Accept. If these guys had been around in 1986, they would've been signed to a guitar-centric metal label like Shrapnel Records, without a doubt.
Kairos does have a tendency to favor over-the-top hyperactivity over memorable hooks or choruses, and as a result some of the tracks on Queen of the Hill may go in one ear and out the other on your first few listens. Rest assured, after a couple of spins the disc will definitely begin to stick in your cranium.
In short, these fellas are the real deal, and I have a feeling that if they knock off some of the rough edges heard on Queen of the Hill and tighten up their songwriting just a hair, their next album could be absolutely freakin' deadly. What do you say, guys? Bring it on!
Life on the Edge (EP) - Independent, 2013
Wicked Callings - Bleeding Music, 2015
Queen of the Hill - Stormspell, 2019
© 2019 Keith Abt