Review: Pretty Maids – 'Kingmaker'

Like a fine wine, Danish rockers Pretty Maids have matured with age, and in recent years have produced some of their finest work in a career spanning four decades. The evergreen Ronnie Atkins is probably the best vocalist that you might not be familiar with, whereas his compadre, Ken Hammer, still plays the role of ‘ultra-cool guitarist’ with amazing ease. The very cornerstone of so many memorable rock ‘n’ roll bands, the yin and yang, the light and the dark, the vocalist and the lead guitarist. Pretty Maids should be massive, they have the talent and the songs to fill arenas worldwide, but it hasn’t happened. However, fans can smile at each other with the smug sensation of “we get it, the rest are just playing catch up”. Pretty Maids play classic guitar driven hard rock/metal, with a great deal of importance placed on the melodies. Even when the band are hammering away during the heavier moments on ‘Kingmaker’, the vocal melodies are impeccable. ‘When God Took A Day Off’ is a cracking way to start the album off. An atmospheric intro, complete with monks doing whatever it is that monks do… chanting?.. not sure… but it adds to the haunting atmosphere. The song rattles along at a rollicking pace, as Atkins begins with a smooth vocal, before changing to his trademark grit throughout the six minutes. It’s dark and mysterious, and leaves an impression on the listener. The title track is way heavier, with a crushing drum groove from Allan Tschicaja. It’s classic fist-in-the-air, melodic metal, where the chorus begs to be chanted out at full pelt from the front rows. It’s heavy enough to satisfy the metalheads, but at the same time commercial enough to keep the casual listener tuned in. ‘Face The World’, ‘Last Beauty On Earth’, and ‘Heavens Little Devil’ are all perfect slices of melodic rock, that highlight Atkins’ vocal range, and it’s his gritty rasp, that makes him stand out from the pack. ‘Last Beauty On Earth’ is perhaps the best song that Jon Bon Jovi never wrote, and maybe if lil’ Jon gave Ronnie a call for some songwriting collaborations, the last few albums from New Jersey’s finest wouldn’t have been so insipid. The band change tack for a heavier approach on tracks like ‘Sickening’, ‘Bull’s Eye’, and the sublime ‘King Of The Right Here And Now’, which edges into the front of the ‘favourite track’ race. The vocal melodies are never far away, and the hooks are massive. Proof indeed that you can ramp it up and still have a song remain catchy. Likewise, ‘Civilized Monsters’ is the best of both worlds. The drums pound, the guitars wail, and the vocals grip from the off, but the chorus is, yet again, uplifting. This one must crush live.
‘Kingmaker’ is fantastic album that deserves to be heard on a much larger scale. Not so much Denmark’s best kept secret, but the one that got away. It’s not too late to change that though, and the first step should be checking ‘Kingmaker’ and Pretty Maids out. An all-out aural delight awaits. ‘Kingmaker’ is available now through Frontiers Music. Review: Dave Stott

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