Hard rocking four-piece Kingswood are hot property right now. With a reputation for energetic live performances, they have developed a strong following through a steady stream of singles and EPs, and have just travelled to Nashville to record their debut album Microscopic Wars with Grammy Award winning producer Vance Powell (Jack White, Artic Monkeys).
Kingswood have quickly carved out a niche with their robust, brawny sound, but this has the potential to be limiting (as Australia’s last hard rocking export, Wolfmother found out). It is easy for a new band to get pigeon-holed. And the power of live performance does not always translate effectively to the more subtle medium of a recording. The opening tracks of Microscopic Wars grab the listener with loud, brash rock and roll. It’s what we expect from Kingswood, but begs the question: has the band succumbed to these limitations?
Thankfully, the third track of the album, “I Can Feel That You Don’t Love Me” puts such fears to rest. Here the sound gets toned down a notch with a slower bluesy number allowing the smooth vocal of Fergus Linacre to dominate. It was a bold but smart move to choose this as the lead single for the album; the group seem to be challenging those existing perceptions by demonstrating their depth and versatility.
The title track takes this diversity in another direction with a searching tune that ends in some affecting harmonies. This is followed up with “So long”, a bluesy, soulful number with a reaching guitar solo. “Ohio” should sound familiar, having charted strongly in last year’s hottest 100; this is fun, old school rock with wailing vocals that channel the likes of Robert Plant and Ian Gillan.
“Side to Side” takes us in a new direction again with a track that blends punk rock and Metallica. With the focus firmly on guitars for most of the LP, the biggest surprise comes at the start of “Eye of the Storm”, the most accomplished song of the album, where we get a plaintive piano introduction that gives way to a powerful rock ballad.
Kingswood return to their signature sound with “She’s My Baby”, the lead track from last year’s EP. And bringing the album to a close is “Chronos”, which leaves the listener with heavy guitars and pounding rhythms.
It is a sign of the times that any band with loud guitars gets labelled ‘retro’. While Kingswood certainly owe a debt to Led Zeppelin, Queens of the Stone Age are just as much a presence here; and there is enough on this first album to suggest that they have firmly marked out their own territory and are here to stay.
Reviewed by Matthew Trainor