Review: Palace Of The King – 'Valles Marineris'

Another day, another cracking band breaking out of Australia. It seems like it’s getting to be an almost weekly occurrence, where we are spewing superlatives about a band from down under. Resident Oz team member, Craig was recently cooing over Tequila Mockinbyrd (yes Google that is the correct spelling, so don’t attempt to fucking autocorrect me!), and this week it happens to be the turn of Melbourne six-piece Palace Of The King to attract our attention. Bands miles apart from the traditional bar room boogie that you associate with Australia that make your ears prick up and stand to attention. Palace Of The King play it cool, with a retro sound steeped in the seventies, but unlike many other retro bands out there, these guys sound fresh and modern. Think Crobot only less hairier, but with a touch of badass funk thrown in. The organ intro to opener ‘Let The Blood Run Free’ is a great benchmark of what you can expect on the album. A timeless atmospheric sound that is simply massive. The work of Sean Johnston on the keys is pivotal to the overall sound of the band, as important as the guitars, actually. The guitars are beefy as hell (especially the bass), and if people still use the word “phat” to describe stuff, then that would be an apt description, but they don’t, so it will have to be “beefy”. Vocalist, Tim Henwood has a voice that, at times, echoes Axl Rose (pre bloated phase), Andrew Stockdale from fellow Aussies Wolfmother, and a touch of Steve Marriott, powerful and earthy. The songs featured are classic sounding as well as relevant today. ’Beyond The Valley, ’The Bridge Of The Gods’, and ‘Empire Of The Sun’ (complete with a nice Zeppelin guitar vibe) have enough chops to stand up against any similar band around today, but it’s when Palace Of The King add a little funk into the mix that I feel they really stand out in what could be described as an oversaturated market. ’Black Cloud’ is a real highlight, featuring the thunderous vocal talents of Mahalia Barnes (Aussie rock royalty, no less). The track reminds me of one of my favourite bands, funk rock pioneers, Mother’s Finest, and I’m certain that Joyce “Baby Jean” Kennedy would be roaring her approval if she heard it. Bass and keys so funky I’m expecting Huggy Bear to come walking down the street, pimped up to the nines… it’s even got some cowbell on it! So what more can you want? Guitar solo? Yep, here it comes! Damn, this is good stuff. ’Sick As A Dog’ is similar, with its funky vibe, and maybe it’s the song title that does it, but the track reminds me of early Aerosmith, streetwise and sassy with a killer drum sound. ‘We Are The Vampires’, another highlight, begins with a bass workout from Andrew Gilpin that echoes classic punk outfit The Stranglers hit single ‘Peaches’, before the band kick the door and pile in. The slowed down chorus works well, and the guitar solo is understated but very effective. The keyboards from Sean Johnston are still there for all to hear, as important to the Palace Of The King sound as Jon Lord was to whatever band he graced at the time. ’River Of Fire’ has a Beatles ‘Come Together’ trip going on from the outset, which quickly gives way to some proggy spaced-out sounds and hellacious guitar. Get it on vinyl, play it backwards, and I bet you’ll here “Do It” over and over.. another astonishing track on an album full of them. ’Throw Me To The Wolves’ is another beauty, again partly thanks to the keyboard sound, which is sublime, and thank the lord I gave up the devil’s lettuce a long time ago, as this would never be off my turntable.
I could wax lyrical about this Palace Of The King album all night long, but check it out for yourself. A word of advice though, listen to it in one sitting, and you will get so much more out of it. Have at least one session with a pair of cans on, and you will be rewarded with full on aural pleasure, especially on ‘Into The Black’… ooft! ‘Valles Marineris’ is out now through Listenable Records, and plans seem to be afoot to bring the band over to Europe in the near future… you little ripper (sorry couldn’t resist it). Review: Dave Stott
Free Stream of the full album HERE]]>

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