Friday, October 21, 2016

Pretty Maids-Kingmaker

Frontiers Music s.r.l.

Pretty Maids is a (critically-acclaimed) Danish hard rock/melodic heavy metal band that hails from Horsens and was first formed in 1981. Run by longtime songwriting partners Ronnie Atkins (vocals) and Ken Hammer (guitars), Pretty Maids actually started out life as a cover band that (reportedly) played mostly Thin Lizzy songs before making the natural transition over to all original material. Having first made a name for itself with the release of the classic 1984 album "Red, Hot and Heavy", Denmark's Pretty Maids has slowly, but surely built up a nice catalog for itself over the years. In the process this veteran group has seen more than it's fair share of line-up changes and they have witnessed trends come and go. They've also logged a lot of miles under their wheels. Now in it's mid-thirties, Pretty Maids is at that point in their career where they could be forgiven for slowing down a bit. After awhile a lot veteran hard rock bands have this tendency to start phoning in new albums. Staying fresh and relevant came be extremely difficult for anyone...let alone a band that was right there during heavy metal's heyday! Thankfully that's not the case when it comes to Pretty Maids' new album. Actually it's about as far from being the case as one could get when it comes to this Danish hard rock band's 14th studio album. That's right, "Kingmaker" is album number 14(!) for vocalist Ronnie Atkins and guitarist Ken Hammer! Obviously this Danish group has come a very long-way since their humble beginnings as a cover band, but who in their right mind could have predicted that they would sound this good some 32 years after their "Red, Hot and Heavy" debut? Exquisitely produced by the one and only Jacob Hansen(!), the forthcoming "Kingmaker" features some of the strongest material of all time from the pair of Atkins and Hammer! Serving as the group's first recording of all new material since 2013's praise-worthy "Motherland", "Kingmaker" finds these talented songwriters/musicians joined by two great musicians in their own right, bass guitarist René Shades (Shades & Peters, ex-!pride!, ex-Sateria, ex-Vegas Vampire) and drummer Allan Tschicaja (Missing Tide, Jane Doe, ex-Royal Hunt (live shows only), ex-Furious Trauma). The end result is a (must-own) album that is chock full of instant classics and all new Pretty Maids' favorites! One song that fits into both categories for me is "When God Took A Day Off". As the album's furious opening track this (heavy rockin'!) song set's the pace for "Kingmaker" and shows just how great it can be when you have a winning combination of strong lyrics and absolutely stellar music. Easily worth the price of admission on it's own, "When God Took A Day Off" is followed by the equally satisfying (and similarly heavy) title track and, in all honesty here friends, it took less than a minute of that song ("Kingmaker") to realize just how special this album was going be! By the album's third track ("Face The World") I was completely hooked, but just in case there was any question as to the overall strength of the "Kingmaker" I kept my ears firmly glued to the speaker and waited for any potential flukes and/or fillers. In-between the hard rock of "Humanize Me" and the heavy metal of "Bull's Eye" there is the timeless ballad  "Last Beauty On Earth" and not one of those three songs failed to bring a smile to my face. Six songs in and "Kingmaker" had  proved my suspicions right. When you get right down to it, "Kingmaker" is Pretty Maids at their absolute best! Whether it's the melodic notes of  "Heavens Little Devil", the AOR-leaning "Civilized Monsters", or the the monster rock of "Sickening" there is not a single miss on "Kingmaker". It's just one good track after another up to and including "Was That What You Wanted". CD-wise the group's new album ends with that cool number. Meanwhile digital copies of "Kingmaker" will supposedly sport an extended version of the killer track. As for what version one should get? Well, that's a tough one, but here's the key thing to remember. Whichever version you opt to spring for you're still getting a Grade A recording from one band that just seems to get better with age. Every song on "Kingmaker" sounds great and so do the musicians involved with this praise-worthy release. At the end of the day not only is this album a must-have for Pretty Maids fans, but anyone that loves (Top of the shelf!) hard rock/melodic heavy metal.

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