What exactly qualifies as “metal” can be a contentious issue. As any dedicated listener knows, the label itself accounts for a wide spread of sub-genres—ranging from softer, more atmospherically-inclined fare such as post-black/gaze and folk metal; to the frantic, bombastic realms of speed and power metal; and onto the spasmodic worlds of math- and grindcore; and even the bleak, all-encompassing, sonic oppression of drone and funeral doom. Many of these sub-genres remain contentious, and what is considered metal, or even just heavy music can shift and change depending upon what circles you frequent. Then again, there are those bands who (for any number of reasons) simply ooze the ideal of heavy metal, no matter which way you look at them, so that their status as a nothing less than a fucking heavy metal band cannot be denied. The King is Blind are one of those bands.
The band—who bill themselves as “apocalyptic post grind” but essentially just play all the best kinds of death metal (at once)—hail from the UK and feature ex-Cradle of Filth guitarist Paul Ryan, who (as a founding member of that band) played on their classic 1994 debut The Principle of Evil Made Flesh and the original cut of Dusk… and Her Embrace. However, the Essexians bear little resemblance to that heavily influential act. Instead, they draw more directly from a pool of influences populated by all of the greatest doom and melodically-tinged death metal acts. The most readily-available comparison to be made is certainly that of the mighty Bolt Thrower, whose definitive frontman Karl Willetts (now of Memoriam) happens to crop up on “Mantra XIII (Plague: Avaritia)”, from their outstanding and delightfully-titled new album We Are the Parasite, We Are the Cancer. Beyond that, the band take their cues readily from later-period Celtic Frost and Triptykon—bringing an ominous, doom-like stomp to their sound that also brings to mind the likes of Paradise Lost at their heaviest and even early Anathema, and which gives way to full blown Crowbar-isms on “The Sky Is A Mirror (Plague: Luxuria)”.
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As for the melodic death metal influence, while there’s scarcely anything particularly “melodic” about The King is Blind, numerous We Are the Parasite, We Are the Cancer nevertheless borrow liberally from more extreme end of the sub-genre. There are more than a fem moments on the record that sound like Amon Amarth stripped of all their pompous grandiosity—so that only the thundering stomp at the core of their sound remains (see: “GodFrost (Plague: Invidia)”), and there’s more than a touch of At The Gates and early-period Entombed in play without anything on the album coming even close to sounding like second-wave metalcore or the recent spate of “entombedcore” acts that those bands are usually held accountable for. In fact, The King is Blind are so good at what they do that they even manage to drop into a distinctly Six Feet Under-sounding section at the end of “Patriach”: absolutely nail it; and then run it headfirst into something that would fit comfortably amid Anaal Nathrakh’s catalogue at the outset of “Embers From A Dying Son (Plague: Gula)”.
The King is Blind also bring an unapologetic political—and explicitly progressive—message to the table on their new record. In among all the usual sublime posturing that comes with this sort of territory are embedded messages of environmental sustainability, anti-capitalism, celebrity politics and even the recent Syrian refugee crisis (Metal Hammer ran a fantastic and thoroughly insightful track-by-track breakdown of the album if you want to find out more). Sure, these messages are delivered with about as much tact as their setting might suggest, but there’s a lot to be enraged about in the world today and We Are the Parasite, We Are the Cancer’s pessimistic “Plague” suite provides the perfect outlet for these sorts of tensions, while also constituting an utterly phenomenal slab of uncompromising extreme metal in its own right.