A review on Fantasma Nera from New York’s Kings Destroy.
New York City’s Kings Destroy is aiming for something different from what they’ve done in the past. The difference this time is that Kings Destroy is going from a heavy and hardcore rooted sound while using the theme of confrontation to take things a bit grittier and more melody driven. Fantasma Nera is an album that is described as nothing like the band has done before.
Kings Destroy have traveled all over the world touring and sharing stages with names like Pentagram and Truckfighters, so they aren’t exactly new to the scene or trying to figure themselves out. In 2019, the band is challenging themselves to be creative and use new inspiration. It’s an admirable goal as opposed to many bands who lie in their groove and keep churning out the same material.
As for the new album Fantasma Nera, the 10-track album opens with “The Nightbird” and the title track “Fantasma Nera” which have some of the most unique guitar hooks in the album. It’s these guitar tracks in both rhythm and lead that add the variety in most of the songs in Fantasma Nera. They scream stoner rock with the gritty fuzz and distortion in the guitars as that feeling is present almost everywhere.
“Barbarossa” and “Unmake It” follow that same flow that the first two tracks had. This heavy, low melody of grit and almost sludge sounding material is a static one that continues to unfold and stay present for the rest of the album. That’s where some of the problem comes with Fantasma Nera…most songs on this album have an extremely similar sound. To the extent you can’t identify differences between some tracks.
“Dead Before” has a slow opening that lets the bassline play out a bit, but the tempo starts to wear as you listen when there is no real build up or payoff. It’s technically sound and the vocals from singer Stephen Murphy come clear, but “Dead Before” will help you nod off rather than excite you or pull you into the music. It’s the type of stoner music you play when you are ready to crash for a few hours.
“Yonkers Ceiling Collapse” fortunately shocks you back up. The chorus and bridge are elevating and the lead guitar is a bit more exciting. The verses are a bit of the same drag that previous songs had, but there is at least a spark here. “Seven Billion Drones” then retreads previous territory from the first half of the album. It isn’t poor quality or grating, it’s just uninspiring to the listener.
Slow guitar solos, steady drum pounds, stretched out verses…it becomes a format. It isn’t much to dive into after a few listens. You can tell there is talent here and there are standout songs like the title track and “The Nightbird”, but the highlights are over after that and the second half of the album becomes a slog, including the final two tracks “Bleed Down The Sun” and “Stormy Times”. The last ten minutes of this album all blends in together as a haze.
When I went into Kings Destroy’s new album, I was wanting something gritty but also moving and engaging. The type of atmospheric sound you hear in an underground venue in New York City that people are all in sync with as they listen. Instead, it sounds like the background music you hear at a dirty bar in New York that people just ignore and shout over until they leave for the night.
It’s not an issue of sound quality or mixing. You can tell the band knows how to play. It boils down to the final product and the writing. The lyrics are forgettable, the rhythms sound monotonous after only a couple listens, and most songs feel twice as long as they actually are. Fantasma Nera should definitely have an audience for the stoner rock and groove lovers, but it may not make many new fans for the band.