Review by Paul H Birch
With MTV glory days long since gone, and often dismissed by Kingdom Come’s own Lenny Wolf, the singer’s been ploughing his own creative furrow for many a year now. Forsaking record company requests for more material derivative of Led Zeppelin he again picked up a guitar and often went for a rougher edged AC/DC sound, shedding record sales alongside band members. Not that Wolf is down on his luck, or any less self-obsessed. “The only thing that matters is testing myself as an artist and embarking on new paths,” he commented recently, and it’s taken him down a curious one, with Outlier.
Holed up in his own Hamburg studio for 18 months, with the only other musician being Eric Förster soloing on guitar, the latest album to bear the Kingdom Come name arrives layered with keyboards that nudge into industrial noise territory with lyrics that sink into melancholia and rise to be enraged by the modern world.
Awash in epic keyboard textures, ‘God Does Not Sing Our Song’ has Wolf exasperating with lines like “So many dying following leaders, watching the planet explode” as big heavy beating drums pound their way through the slow drama of the song, until in its dying moments the briefest of guitar lines appear with the kind of elegiac touch Steve Hackett would climax a classic Genesis song with. It’s unexpected, and damn impressive.
‘Running High Distortion’ is a mid-paced shuffle rocker with synthesisers squiggling and squeaking noisily into Marilyn Manson’s camp, whereas ‘Rough Ride Ralleye’ is Giorgio Moroder disco beats against AC/DC guitar chords, and ‘Let the Silence Talk’ a more mainstream melodic rocker. The slow downbeat dirge rock of ‘Holy Curtain’ is followed by the wonderfully upbeat Hughes-Thrall soundalike of ‘The Trap is Alive’ where Wolf’s voice finally picks up in the mix and bluesy Zeppelin encrusted riffs are pulled out of the broom cupboard for ‘Skip the Cover and Feel’ only for the dichotomy of styles to continue as Bavarian oompah band sounds open ‘Don’t Want You to Wait’ which then surges into a ballad flowing with keyboard grandeur.
Some might consider Wolf’s lyrics on Outlier as too dour, being peppered in philosophic idealism, whereas I get the impression he’s expressing hardy Germanic wit upon our ears musically. Regardless, despite this broad musical palette it’s still the hefty thump of a drum kit loud in the mix providing a strong steady back beat when needed, as it does with symphonic rocker ‘Such a Shame’ and the opening of the concluding ‘When Colors Break the Grey’ where the elektronische musical approach of bands like Heaven 17, OMD and Tears for Fears is accompanied by a distorted guitar and it all sounds mournfully sweet.
Outlier is a collection of contradictions that shouldn’t work, and some don’t quite. It takes several listening to for the less obvious tracks to come across aurally, but there’s some cracking great stuff to be heard throughout.
7.5 out of 10
- God Does Not Sing Our Song
- Running High Distortion
- Rough Ride Ralleye
- Let the Silence Talk
- Holy Curtain
- The Trap is Alive
- Skip the Cover and Feel
- Don`t Want You to Wait
- Such a Shame
- When Colors Break the Grey