Hercules - Waiting For The King review
|Waiting For The King
01. Waiting For The King II
02. Warlords Of The Sun Part I
04. Warlords Of The Sun Part II
05. Masked Pirate
06. Golden Path
07. Dream Of The Golden Path
08. Warlords Of The Sun Part II
09. The Past Flies Away
Hercules is a Greek traditional heavy metal one-man project masterminded by Chris Andreadakis. After a lively, full-blooded outing in 2022, Legend Of Metal, Andreadakis has opted for a curious change in musical approach on follow-up record Waiting For The King.
I’ll admit that my eye was drawn towards Waiting For The King due to its artwork; after several conventional album covers for Hercules’ first few albums, Andreadakis opted for what appears to be a tribute to Yngwie Malmsteen’s Trilogy with the cover of Legend Of Metal, and has similarly selected a Photoshop-esque cover for Waiting For The King. It’s often said that great artwork is a good indicator of a great album; in contrast, unpolished artwork is more often an indicator of limited resources, which is a common challenge for solo projects, and one that is unfair to hold against them. It might be harsh to raise other limitations of an album from such a project, but given that the only reviews I can currently find for Hercules albums are a series of Metal-Archives reviews containing surprisingly specific details and written similarly to posts on the band’s social media, perhaps a contrasting perspective is not unwarranted.
So, what change in approach has there been? Well, Legend Of Metal was a generally high-tempo, high-volume, high-energy classic metal affair, one that at times spilled over into speed metal territory; none of this particularly applies to Waiting For The King. To give a sense of the contrasting approaches, Waiting For The King has almost half the number of tracks as Legend Of Metal but is only a few minutes shorter (although it should be noted that one of these tracks is an instrumental version of another one already on the record, “Warlords Of The Sun Part II”, which is generously available for free download on Bandcamp). Andreadakis has opted for long songs here; he’s also opted for slower and quieter songs, to a quite peculiar extent.
The opening track “Waiting For The King II” (although I can’t find a “Waiting For The King I” in their discography) is the shortest conventional song on the album, and is probably the liveliest song here (bar maybe “Masked Pirate”), but even it has a doominess to its chorus refrain. It also has a medieval vibe to its central guitar melodies, in keeping with the theme of the album artwork. This historical fantasy feel to the melodies persists in subsequent songs, such as a nice lead guitar melody in “Warlords Of The Sun Part II”; what doesn’t persist is a consistent presence of distorted guitars. The riffs, which already were more muted on the opening song than they were on Legend Of Metal, disappear for significant portions of the rest of the album, and lie somewhat buried in the mix even when present. Instead, Hercules opts for clean guitar balladry, and sometimes riffing, as a primary tool across Waiting For The King, with the volume coming most frequently from the guitar solos that appear often across the album.
It's an unusual approach, to be honest, and not one that I think really suits Hercules. There was something of a DIY roughness to the production and writing on Legend Of Metal, but the energy of the album compensated for it. Here, the muted sound highlights some issues more markedly, most notably the programmed drums. Andreadakis has expressed dissatisfaction at people questioning the drums on the album, describing such comments as “anti-metal and pathetic”; however, even though I appreciate that having a solo project and lacking the ability to play drums is a major hurdle that’s difficult to navigate, there is still talent to programming drums, and percussion here is rudimentary at best, something that is amplified by the drum package used, which results in cymbal rolls with a single tone constantly repeated in a detractingly unnatural fashion. Even beyond this point, however, there are serious issues with Waiting For The King.
There are four songs on the album that are 7 minutes or longer, which is longer than any one song on Legend of Metal; when scaling up songwriting, one has to ask the question of whether each section in a song justifies its presence. Andreadakis clearly has skill as a guitarist, and the solos on this album are typically the strongest feature of each song (with one glaring exception). Outside of the solos, however, I struggle to find much to connect with on these songs. “Warlords Of The Sun Part I” flickers back and forth between heavier material with marching snares and quiet clean guitar passages; I’m not taken with either, but I feel the alternating between them gives an overall awkward feel to the song. “Warlords Of The Sun Part II” opts for a soft start that gradually builds to a louder finish, but the minstrel-style first half runs for too long and is overly punctuated with excessive guitar soloing, and in the second half, despite the song shifting into a more potent march, the distorted guitar chugs that one would expect to enhance the force of the rhythm are either absent or so buried in the mix as to be inaudible, underselling the impact of the actually quite nice clean guitar motif that is repeated in this passage.
Andreadakis has quite a wide range of vocal approaches used on this album, covering loud higher-pitched singing, a lower-register tone, and softer singing right through to full-blooded metal shrieks. All of these style can be heard on the album’s longest song, “Golden Path”; while he has some ability with the more voluminous singing, his attempts at a soft voice really do not work. Conversely, vocals are not heard at all on “Dream Of The Golden Path”, and this is the track in which the ‘one glaring exception’ lurks. “Dream Of The Golden Path” is a 10-minute instrumental featuring no percussion, instead having a constant guitar solo over a single clean guitar riffing backdrop. The track is frankly borderline unlistenable; Hercules have claimed their dislike of all famous guitar players, but they could really stand to learn something about phrasing from some of those musicians, as the soloing on this track is erratic and frequently amusical. There is also no clear relationship between the soloing guitar and the background guitar, both seemingly operating with neither internal cohesion nor any connection with one another. I can’t claim to enjoy Waiting For The King as a whole, but the inclusion of this track pretty much single-handedly knocks a point off the score.
Waiting For The King differs drastically from any other Hercules album, even The Triumph Of True Metal and its three 15-minute songs; such substantial shifts in approach typically represent a musician exploring a long-term passion, but if that is the case, it’s either not been executed in the way it was intended, or it’s not a passion that has long-term prospects. Andreadakis has a pretty extreme perception of Hercules and its output, referring to their first 3 albums as ’among the most important albums in the wave of new true heavy metal’, and The Triumph Of True Metal as the best epic metal album in the Hellenic scene; I do not hold Hercules’ albums prior to Waiting For The King as being remotely of this standard, but even compared to what Hercules have released before, Waiting For The King is a misstep.
|Written on 30.04.2023 by Hey chief let's talk why not
|Chris Hercules - the one-man band passionate metalhead - can't stop producing original epic metal masterpieces. The amount of ideas and momentary epic riffs in such a small time frame is so unbelievably vast. This guy seems to have received such a huge gift from the Muses. His inspired music flows endlessly like the water of the spring of Helicon.
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