Synth Album Review: "Kingdom of Night" by CONFRONTATIONAL
Kingdom of Night is the second of three albums by Confrontational that are linked together into one cohesive whole. Kingdom of Night is full of the message of hope and defiance in the face of encroaching darkness which, despite the album being a few years old now, makes it powerfully relevant to our current situation. Confrontational worked with a variety of other artists on Kingdom of Night and each of them brings their own flavour to the album.
Along with strong lyrics and engaging vocal performances, Kingdom of Night also features powerful drums, deep wells of bass and melodies both sparkling and mournful that run through it and combine to create a sonically interesting and thematically intense end result.
Confrontational’s songwriting skills are definitely up to par. He creates some clear, sharp images and emotional moments with his writing and his voice is also clear and carries the words well. When he works with Hélène De Thoury on “Keep The Faith” her voice intertwines well with his and produces a strong and compelling result.
Another stand out feature of this album is the drums. They have a real gut-slamming power on many of the tracks and they provide a strong, steady heartbeat that underpins all of the other musical elements and propels the tracks forward and gives them a great deal of energy and presence.
The textures and moods provided by Confrontational’s (and his guests) choices of synths (and guitar in Tony Kim’s case) definitely elevate this album. Each of these musical elements add a certain timbre or feeling to the tracks that increases their intensity and interest. Cody Carpenter’s lead synth playing on “Crimson Curtains” brings a freshness to the music and Tony Kim’s guitar work on “Stand Your Ground” has a real power and depth to it.
Now I will run through the tracks on Kingdom of Night that really hit me and talk about the elements of those songs that caused them to make such an impact.
The first track “Kingdom Come” sends a steady pulse of oscillating synth sound out into empty space before the rich upwelling of bass comes in, shifting and moving under that synth pulse. The lead synth here is high and chiming, playing a minor key melody that has a vaguely dangerous feeling about it. The thundering percussion, chanting voices and high tense synth sounds bring real drama to this track.
“In The Line Of Fire” opens with rapidly moving arps with a computerized sounding synth open the track as deep bass washes in and the arps spin through the track. The drums here power the track forward with aggression and drive as a soaring melody flies into the track. Confrontational’s vocals are strong and dramatic on this track with the punch of the drums emphasizing the vocal melody.
The song talks about the darkness that’s falling as “shadows dance in celebration” and reminds us that “every freedom has its price.” Confrontational asks, “Will you stand in line?”
The sense of danger is heightened in the lines, “We're all drowning in a nightmare/As the kingdom marches on.” To compound this feeling of lurking threat, the song says, “Every lie will stand against us/As the fire burns inside.” The question we are left with is whether we should stand in the line of fire or not.
Oscillating synths bounce between stereo channels as bass rises and falls underneath. Those synths move in a pattern and a rapid drum beat along with charging electric guitar move into the track, sending it leaping forward. There’s a hard rock feeling to this track as Confrontational’s rapid fire lyrics explode and Tony Kim’s guitar supercharges the track. When Kim solos, his fingers draw howls, cries and intricately interwoven notes from his guitar.
This is a song about a society under pressure and threatening to erupt. The lyrics speak of “people under pressure/standing on the line/living under fire/ready to collide” but Confrontational also urges people to “stand your ground tonight/on your feet and fight/face your fear tonight.”
His next lyrics turn to the topic of dis- and mis-information being spread into society through the media and people who are “on the screen/living in a dream.” He comments that this only increases the pressure people feel but again the chorus urges us to fight back and face our fears.
“Keep Faith” opens on deep, dark bass along with high, tightly wound flashes of synth that flow and reverberate out into the open spaces of the track. The drums are powerful again and Hélène De Thoury’s voice mixes well with Confrontational’s as they duet. There’s a certain sadness in the vocal melody that is suited to the lyrics on this track. When we get the lead synth melody, it is mournful and ethereal, soaring through the thudding background nicely.
This is a song about keeping the faith, no matter how deep the darkness around us is. Helene De Thoury’s voice matches nicely with Confrontational’s to deliver the lyrics. This song has some of the finest imagery on the album with lines like, “Nights awake/Lost in a maze/Crystal stars above us/Silence everywhere.” The other great image that I really enjoyed was “nights ablaze/dancing in the dark/running in the shadows/longing for some trust.”
The message that calls out through the song is “we must keep faith” no matter what’s happening and the disasters that are around us. I think that right now, even though this album came out some years ago, this is a message that we all need to hear.
The metallic sounds and robotic lead synth that start off “The Night Is Done” create a certain cyberpunk mood. There’s a seriously hard kick drum and a wandering and twisting melody moves through the track. As the track evolves, a more triumphant lead synth melody dances out over the other elements around it.
Confrontational tackles the human condition in his lyrics and does so in a hard- hitting way. There’s a cascading series of synth notes over that powerful kick and the whole track has a lot of energy and motion to it as more sounds oscillate through and that techy synth echoes out on top of the music. Again there’s a smoothness to this music, despite the weight and depth of some of the elements.
The lyrics of this song echo the theme of defiance in the face of darkness that runs through Kingdom of Night. Confrontational speaks of “roaming through desolation” and “fighting our wars alone” while still holding on to hope. The chorus is the repeated mantra of “the night is done/the dawn will come” and it fits well with the other songs on the album.
Confrontational reminds us that we “never should have trusted/this world that thrives on lies” but adds “and yet we're here, on the line/'til we see the end of night.” This is, despite everything, truly a song about hope.
The closing track “Crimson Curtains” is full of high-pitched, bouncing synths playing drifting notes. There are also deep drifts of bass that have a bit of rough edge to them and another strong percussion track that really supports the other musical elements nicely. There are also choral voices adding strength to this track. There’s something hopeful and uplifting about the lead synth melody that cries out on this track, despite the underlying darkness.
Kingdom Of Night emphasizes Confrontational’s ability to combine interesting musical ideas, strong lyrics and an overall sense of creating a thematically linked series of pieces. I am looking forward to reviewing the other two parts of this trilogy very shortly.