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One of the most difficult feats to achieve for many metal artists when trying to comprise an album full of guest appearances seems to be actually writing songs that fit the particular cameo's style. Several bands such as Avantasia have succeeded quite well in doing so while several others such as Ayreon and Timo Tolkki's Avalon don't always pull it off for me as successfully as they possibly could.

After hearing that guitar virtuoso Magnus Karlsson was creating his second Free Fall album I honestly was not that excited. I love virtually every band he has ever been a part of from Kiske/Somerville and Primal Fear all the way back to Last Tribe and Midnight Sun, but something seemed to be amiss about many of the songs on the debut. He managed to recruit some incredible singers such as Russell Allen and Tony Harnell, but the songwriting seemed to be lacking in several places almost as if he wrote the songs before he had particular singers in mind. After announcing the lineup for Kingdom of Rock I was almost even more disappointed, not because of the guest vocalists chosen weren't to my liking, but quite the opposite. I loved the lineup up so much and I really didn't want to potentially be disappointed again.

After pushing play I was immediately enamoured from the opening track onward. Magnus seemed to be firing on all cylinders when attempting to write songs for individual singers. It is almost as if he sat down and said to himself "I've got Joe Lynn Turn on the song “No Control”, maybe I should try to write something that wouldn't be out of place on Yngwie Malmsteen's Odyssey album". Honestly I felt he nailed that particular song perfectly. Incredibly memorable riffage, a chorus that you'll be singing along to from first listen and Joe's voice is certainly not showing his age. The real highlight of this album though is “When the Sky Falls” featuring ex-Black Sabbath legend Tony Martin. He has always been an incredible singer who I've felt never really got the credit he's deserved. Magnus's opening riff is just punishing, I found myself headbanging throughout the entire song. This is also not the typical vocal performance of a man who is damn near 60. This song to me really sounds like something Tony Iommi might have written in the late 80s. Honestly the way it stands now this is a heavy contender for song of the year.

Magnus Karlsson’s Free Fall
Kingdom of Rock
(Frontiers Records)
Written by: Adam Phillips
9.5 out of 10

I could go on and on about how great the guitar playing and songwriting are on Kingdom of Rock. “Angel of the Night” with David Readman sounds like an extremely memorable Pink Cream 69 track, “Never Look Away” with Tony Harnell easily sounds like something TNT would be writing had he not left the band again and is easily a considerably better track than the one he contributed on the debut Free Fall album, etc. One of the biggest surprises for me though is that Magnus is once again the vocalist on two tracks – “I Am Coming for You” and “Walk This Road Alone”. I always knew he was an incredible guitarist, but I had no idea he had gained a much more competent singing voice over the past couple of years. His vocal control can easily rival that of pretty much any of the established guests singing for him.

All in all Kingdom of Rock was an immense surprise. For a project where one man does all the guitars, keyboards, bass, and even some of the vocals everything is completely top notch. Once again Magnus has another producer credit, which I have always loved. Every album he's ever got his hands on has come out extremely clean and well-polished and he has grown to be one of my favorite producers as well as an all around musician. This is pretty close to being an album of the year contender, after several more listens we will see, but as of now I'd rate it at an extremely solid 9.5 out of 10.

Adam Phillips, HMS

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