For I Am King

As someone who was really cutting his teeth in the more extreme metal scene during Metalcore’s heyday, it’s safe to say that it will always have a special place in my heart. Even when the genre fell out of fashion and became more a butt of every gatekeeper’s jokes, it remained a regular part of my rotation that still persists to this day. That the last few years have enjoyed a bit of a Metalcore revival, well it just sends my little camo-shorted, bandana-wearing heart aflutter.

To that end, when I first heard Dutch bruisers For I Am King nearly 5 years ago, their album I became something of an instant obsession of mine, bringing the world a dynamic mix of heft and melody led by one of the more explosive and unique (both literally and figuratively) voices in the entire genre – the Iranian-born Alma Alizadeh, who became a political refugee at age 9 and found a home in the Netherlands. That, in my humble opinion, is the kind of voice that should be handed a mic and put in front of a metal band. And while her life experiences have certainly bled threw into her songwriting and emotionally charged vocal performances, she’s also backed by a group of serious musicians – with guitarists Woulter Cammelbeeck and Koen Scheepens more than capable themselves of drawing real power and emotion through their guitar work.

The wait for new material may well have felt like it took forever, but my friends – it was well worth it. With Disciples, For I Am King sounds like no time has passed at all, with an album every bit as exhilarating as it’s predecessor, and in fact may even be even more efficient and precise in it’s delivery than ever before. Thematically speaking, Crown is picking up right where its predecessor left off, continuing Alizadeh’s exploration of “power” or, perhaps more specifically, following the old adage of “absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Granted, Metalcore has long been somewhat obsessed with themes of corruption, dystopia and fighting back against tyrannical forces in one form or another – but something about For I Am King‘s telling of these themes feels all the more genuine, surely stemming from Alizadeh’s unique personal back story. Her sneering, raspy screams seem to carry the emotional weight of a betrayed disciple (pun absolutely intended) lashing out against her oppressors. One listen to the final breakdown on the album’s incredible title track, with Alma bellowing “HAIL THE KING, FOR I AM KING,” and you know that every ounce of her heart and soul is being thrown into her performance. Then take her duet with Darkest Hour‘s John Henry on “Pariah,” a track that sees the entire band reaching down into their feels with some gorgeous melodies and brooding, more Melodeath leaning tones. Perhaps spurred on by the presence of another vocalist that she herself admits is one of her favorites, she turns in an incredible powerful performance that should, along with the explosive start on “Barriers” and plenty of others, cement her as one of the genre’s most potent voices.

But while Alizadeh may command the bulk of your attention, the rest of the band ain’t exactly just standing around in the background letting her take all the glory. Where the band showed plenty of technical prowess on I, the band shows plenty of growth with some absolute barn burner guitars and riffs. The front half of “Trojans” may be one of the band’s bouncier, more catchy offerings, but it’s just to keep you off balance as they launch into a blistering tirade about two minutes in, knocking you straight off your feet with the kind of riff that would make the early Arch Enemy Amott brothers stand at attention.

Then there’s a track like “Bloodline” that pulls a bit more from the band’s more Djent-y influences. While it’s always been at least a small part of the band’s sound, somehow this time around it’s pulled off a little more convincingly, blending melody and complex rhythms en route to one of the album’s darker, more dramatic tracks packed with some truly heartfelt soloing and a cathartic build at the song’s end that feels like its carrying the emotional weight of the entire album to it’s final climax. I’m also very pleased to say that on the first recording with newer drummer Ivo Maarhuis (who replaced the uber talented Jaap Relou in 2020), the band certainly has not missed a beat (pun not intended this time). His ability to keep pace with the frantic changes in pace and style by the band is beyond impressive, and his aggressive playing style helps keep the band on constant attack – giving For I Am King an infectious energy that carries from first note to last.

In this day and age of metal, it seems the bands that shine brightest are the ones that have that one transcendental piece that elevates their status to another level. We’re talking the likes of Lorna Shore‘s Will Ramos, Slaughter to Prevail‘s Alex Terrible, Jinjer‘s Tatiana Shmayluk, all musicians in bands who are plenty good in their own right, who have reached the next pantheon of notoriety largely on their unique talents. On Crown, Alma Alizadeh has proven that perhaps she, too can bring her already incredibly gifted band into that same kind of echelon.

Crown is an incredible, long-needed (and impeccably produced, I should mention) follow-up that gives the metalcore scene 2023’s first real shot in the arm – and with the album marking the band’s 10 year anniversary as a band, lets hope it’s just the start of another decade of success.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Steve K
February 2nd, 2023


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