By Sarah Kitteringham
Kingdom of Sorrow: It’s a name that conjures up images of some grizzled warrior-king, his throne coated in ash, his body caked with blood. It evokes both torpor and power. And indeed, the quintet plays a blend of filthy swamp sludge and growling hardcore, courtesy of Crowbar/Down string slinger Kirk Windstein and Hatebreed vocalist Jamey Jasta.
However, don’t let the formidable combination fool you into thinking you’ll be getting an amalgam of well-known bands. The five year-old project—rounded out by Toxic Holocaust/Phantoms drummer Nick Bellmore, Phantoms guitarist Charlie Bellmore and Crowbar bassist Mathew Brunson—sounds like a new entity with their second full-length, Behind the Blackest Tears.
“My father is a Vietnam veteran and always suffered from flashbacks and very strange behavior,” Jasta says of the inspiration behind the title track. “He is fine now after years of getting his life together but I think it was passed down to me in a strange way.”
Jasta suffered from sleep paralysis and nightmares until the age of 13. “I never talked about it until now, and it was always a deep dark fear,” he says. He attempted to capture that fear on paper as a child, and he’s thankful the nightmares haven’t returned. “I had all these old journal and diary entries,” he says. “I had written down different night terrors that I had as a child… One of them was a female figure who had come over me in this dream and there was this black substance in her eye sockets and no eyes.”
KoS is not a way for Jasta to get in touch with his emotions, however. “This album is not all totally personal, there are songs that aren’t about either of us,” he says, referring to Windstein. “We named the band Kingdom of Sorrow (because) it’s a place we can visit creatively and artistically and it works out that one song, the title track, is very personal, but the rest of them are different.”
Mortality, morality and the apocalypse color Blackest Tears—songs “The Death We Owe,” “God’s Law in the Devil’s Land” and “Along the Path To Ruin”— an album which is markedly more nihilist than the group’s self-titled debut. This was a result of Jasta disregarding his fears of writing in Hatebreed’s fight anthems and rallying cries style and focusing on the essence of Kingdom of Sorrow.
“I said ‘let’s not worry about would we use this riff for Down, would we use this riff for Hatebreed or would we use this riff for Crowbar, lets just make a memorable song,’” he says.
Rather than save their best riffs for their day jobs, KoS manages to make Behind the Blackest Tears an improvement on their debut, which lacked the cohesion of its follow up. The Kirk Windstein penned “God’s Law in the Devil’s Land” is a dirty, duel-vocal boogie, with meaty bass anchoring the crash heavy percussion. “From Heroes to Dust” is as close as southern metal comes to a ballad, a gentle riff that morphs into a miserable chorus accompanied by mammoth riffs.
““Envision the Divide” and “Monuments of Ash” are two of my favorite songs right now,” Jasta says. “’Envision the Divide’ is about musicians influencing people beyond the grave.” He explains that during production, he would invoke the spirits of “Thin Lizzy or Pantera or even Acid Bath or John Bonham,” which would help him write the song. “I have drum tracks with John Bonham where I just riff out and it’s like I am jamming with John Bonham. I did things like that where I felt inspired by this piece of art that is living on eternally after these people are gone”
The mention of several Southern heroes is a lead-in to Jasta’s explanation of his songwriting process, which he has coined “Kirkifying.” “I would bring in a song and say, ‘Alright change this part, make this more dissonant, this more melodic, this part more metal.’ And he would change it up into his style.” Jasta wrote the majority of the album alone. Afterwards, the Bellmore brothers and Windstein brought in their own tracks—Charlie Bellmore penned the galloping thrash of “Sleeping Beast”—and “we meshed it all together and made it work.”
What might not work so well is the band’s tour schedule, which remains up in the air as Jasta (and the rest of the metal world) awaits a new Crowbar record and an upcoming Down DVD, activities which may keep Windstein out of the picture for some time. Nevertheless, you can catch KoS in August at Ozzfest and in a record store near you.