The Kings Rising – Pistolero Americana – Album Review
Love the TONE here! The Kings Rising come out gunning on their latest album, Pistolero Americana, with serious groove-rock infiltrating their bluesy style immediately, raising up the interest level right away on the opening track “Mr. Gasoline Indian.” I mean we’re talking about some of that good ol’ Hendrix-esque crunch in those guitars…with like…
…wait…Blues Rock? They sound like early Soundgarden on this first track by the time the ride is over.
There’s an interesting story in this band that helped shape the lineup and establish some real street cred. According to legend, The Kings Rising’s original bass-player left somewhere back in 2012…and rather than just find another bass player, they discovered they already had one ready to roll. So they moved their drummer James Lippert to bass, voluntarily I believe, and then…problem solved! Or…hmm…suppose that then opens-up a hole in the drumming department doesn’t it? They then enlist an old homie of Stone Mason (Vocals, Guitar) for the throne, a dude named Josh Fritschle. There. That’s better. Now it all fits. Complete with Ryan Mason on the lead guitar, the lineup was complete & aside from not revealing the mystery as to whether or not the guitar players have convenient last names or they are in fact related, you’re as up to speed as I am on the history of the band now.
That being said…if you DON’T have to be related to be a guitar player in this band, I’d like to throw my name in the ring. Though people call me Jer @ SBS for the most part now, there was a brief time way back when in the ol’ j-o-b days that I was known as Mason Gladstone. Call me crazy but name-wise, it seems like I would logically fit right into this lineup, wouldn’t I? I’m here by the phone guys, waiting.
I can say this much…I don’t expect to be hired on into The Kings Rising just because my name fits…but we clearly do have more in common than I would have first thought by their Hard-Rock/Blues label. If The Kings Rising was JUST that…I’d probably have the volume real low truthfully and be churning through the motions of a reviewer doing his best in a world of sound he doesn’t fully understand. In my opinion – these guys gotta get a heck of a lot more realistic when it comes to that label…cause good lordy – this whole album sounds like it was stripped right out of the early grunge era. Specifically early Soundgarden, as I’d mentioned earlier on…and YES they had just about a million elements of blues-rock in their early days breaking into the scene…but then they took that sound, and they made it theirs…they dirtied it up, they made it grunge…or alternative…call it whatever you want boys but ditch the hard-rock moniker. It ain’t that it’s untrue – The Kings Rising does rock HARD…but hard-rock is like…bleh. This is so much BETTER than what the jocks are revving up their 4×4 engines to…I’m just saying they should embrace that. But whatever to genres and labels altogether…I just know what’s awesome & this is definitely that.
So much about this band deserves credit for its powerful awesomeness…where to start? I want to take a specific moment here at the beginning to shout out Stone Mason. Don’t get me wrong – ALL these players hold their own entirely…ain’t no weak points in this incredibly well-balanced band…they’re four pillars of strength and everything you’ll hear is locked down as tightly in its thrashing sound/style as possible. That being said – the sheer BALLS it takes as a singer to go after the incredible notes that Stone is capable of hitting, is something that this entire band should be extremely proud of. There really aren’t that many singers out there that can reach the extraordinary tones that Stone can – but you also have to recognize that for a singer to truly thrive like he so clearly IS in The Kings Rising, that the band, music, and overall environment he’s in has to be strong enough to bring the best out of him like this. So credit where credit is due – Stone’s just about one of the best singers you’ll hear in your whole LIFE, but don’t forget that it’s largely due to the incredibly reliable and powerful band he’s got surrounding him & supporting those amazing vocals he’s got that allows for his full potential to be realized. I also have no doubt whatsoever, that having such an identifiably awesome singer up front leads to every player in this band raising their game; it becomes the whole ‘chicken or the egg’ thing. Was the band this awesome before Stone was that awesome? Or was he that awesome before and thereby influenced the others to become the beasts of rock they are today? Whatever the method was, or is – it’s completely working.
“Mr. Gasoline Indian” ROARS into its beginning, drums pounding away and guitar riffs on display right from the drop. Over time & repetition, you’ll learn that even at the intensity level they begin with, they’re actually keeping it cool & subtle here on their opening track, allowing themselves plenty of space on the record to raise the stakes from there. Definitely a great choice to start-up Pistolero Americana – you get a decent taste of what these guys are capable of without them revealing all their cards at once. Bottom line is that they DO reveal the immense amount of personality, charisma, and character within the sound & movement on “Mr. Gasoline Indian,” quickly lighting up the speakers & stereo-systems with a sonic attack that is seriously badass. Solid backup vocals from James, which complement Stone’s sound really well and punctuate the emphasis right where we’re looking for it, every time.
That blues-rock influence comes into play much more on “Bottle Of Champagne.” I’ll say this – I dig the song…I’m not entirely convinced after listening to the full record that it’s their most suitable style overall – I think they contribute to the other genres I’ve mentioned already much more throughout the album. I appreciate that they clearly love it…but I’m gonna advocate for their kickass grunge qualities at every opportunity I can…because I truly don’t think there are many bands out there that display this level of a depth of understanding of that genre & execute as flawlessly true to the style as The Kings Rising can. No doubt about skills though – LISTEN to that guitar solo around the two-minute mark and the technique applied there! The Kings Rising is absolutely no joke when it comes to their focus & grit – they sound determined to make the most of every moment and “Bottle Of Champagne” is no exception to that rule. Again, I think they’ve done a really great job of laying this record out in a way that allows it to truly evolve & expand as you get right into their sound, style, and approach. 2:15 – have a listen to that moment and tell me that’s not a dead-ringer for Cornell…pun intended, but R.I.P. all the same.
Love the groove-rock based cut “Colgate Joe” and the precision movements of The Kings Rising in how they play this song. It’s also the first time you hear the influence of Stone Temple Pilots creep into the mix throughout the verse, before they explode into Stone’s Soundgarden-esque tendencies in screams as a chorus of sorts. It’s a combination of sounds, influences, & styles that they’ll hit up a couple times throughout this record, “Colgate Joe” is your first example of how well it works in their favor. I want to be super-clear about “Colgate Joe” and the kind of Cornell sound you get from Stone here though…both from his voice and his approach in those moments…because this is like, nearly a page right out of the Temple Of The Dog playbook. It’s about five-minutes shorter than most of the tunes on that record mind you, but that’s the same unbelievable level of commitment and focus you’ll find in this song, and on this record. There were so many rad moments of vocalizations, screams, not-words, all throughout that one glorious self-titled record – and I felt like they captured some of that magic here in between the push-pull grooves they were rocking in the verses of this cut. “Colgate Joe” is like one giant hook and one complete idea nailed as tightly as it can get; it’s one of the shorter cuts on Pistolero Americana and they don’t waste a solitary second of your time.
“Molotov Cocktail” is like…jeeeeeeeeeez…the equivalent of what it would sound like if you could perfectly fuse the sound of Rage Against The Machine with Led Zeppelin somehow? Even Audioslave didn’t pull THAT off…maybe they should have? Listening to this cut from The Kings Rising kind of makes you realize that they really could have gone in that direction & come out with something strong like this. I can completely imagine this cut would set the entire room on FIRE wherever they’re playing it – and truthfully, that’s whether they’re playing it live OR from the stereo…it’s pure energy from beginning to end. LISTEN to the way they pound out the finale of this cut after pouring all that energy into every moment beforehand – these guys are INSANELY good and really know how to get the most from their songwriting, structure, and sound. Shortest track on the record, and dammit, you’ll want MORE of it! Lyrically, also one of the best fits on the record…they EXPLODE into fire, just like the title would imply.
Then there’s “Black Powder” – which still borrows from the grunge-era, just a different part of it. Here’s where you get that Led Zep core, but infused with the playful aspects of Alice In Chains’ strangeness in the verse & their harmony-style for the chorus. With the thick & meaty sound of the bass from James driving this cut in the bluesy direction, they switch effortlessly between that & a classic-rock vibe that has plenty of rhythm & groove for people to latch onto. The hooks are seriously strong here…in a sense it’s a very familiar pattern to the blues-roots that are on display, but I’d never take away from the fact that they get so into the groove here that the enthusiasm passes right onto us as listeners. “Black Powder” is sure to stick in your head and be a favorite for a bunch of listeners out there…I’m right on the fence about whether or not it ‘fits’ on this particular record from The Kings Rising, but I have no doubt about the song itself being another solid entry into their catalogue. There’s a sly funk that exists in the atmosphere here…you can feel “Black Powder” slide right into your ears & flow right through you.
These guys just continually storm, pound, & groove while raising-up their energy on “I’ve Gone Mad” – a cut full of the stop/start magic that makes for an exceptional listen. I’ve probably said it a thousand times in my head or in this review by now already – but Stone Mason is pretty much my new hero. To think that this amazing talent is here kicking all the ass with his cohorts in The Kings Rising is a testament to the man’s faith in the project itself, given that he could clearly be out there commanding a Led Zeppelin or Soundgarden cover-band any time he wanted to. If you are a fan of Plant or Cornell – you will be completely blown away by how close to their sound that Stone can get – straight-up, he’s got one of the best voices in rock-anything that’s out there right now, without question. Once they get through the intensity of the intro and slide into the main grooves of the verse on “I’ve Gone Mad” you get a real appreciation for just how slick this band can be. LISTEN to the killer way they move in sync with each other and the bold instrumentation approaching the ninety-second mark. What other proof could your ears possibly need? The chops & skilled musicianship of this band are on display at every moment. The extra layer of attitude & swagger in Stone’s vocals moves & grooves perfectly in this song – and the band is KILLIN’ IT right around the three-minute mark on-forward, BLAZING with white-hot intensity.
“The Hunter” opens-up the second half of the record after “I’ve Gone Mad,” which I’ll maintain, is one of the best cuts on Pistolero Americana. Even though that’d make the spot coming after it one of the hardest to fill, they pull a smart move by shortening the length to under three minutes for “The Hunter” in an effort to grip it & rip it all the way through. With the tribal drums and thunderous toms from Josh on the throne and the impressive way that James crushes the bass-lines on “The Hunter” to thicken the groove and raise the level of the rock – you add in the amazing sounds of Stone’s vocals and the crunch of Ryan’s guitars, and even in their shortest tunes on this record, they make a maximum impact. This cut draws completely from the well of the madness & mayhem of early grunge…I fuckin love it. Really smart layering of the vocals here…and that scream around the ninety-second mark is easily one of the highlight moments on this whole wickedly entertaining record. Guitar solo is short & sweet as well, with some of the best tones on Pistolero Americana as the song heads towards the end…it might be a small in length, but it’s BIG in sound, scope, & ideas – and it’s a straight-up fact that this crew has brought nothing but their A-game to every second of “The Hunter” – it’s completely audible.
“Sweetwater” probably heads closest to the old-school sounds that you’ll hear on Pistolero Americana – this one gets real close to that Led Zeppelin classic-thrash & energy. Ultimately, it’s almost a big lighter in its sound, even though they’re rocking out here at double the speed – ain’t nothing wrong with that, just an observation. It’s not my favorite tune of the set, but it’s still a damn good song. Complete with its own fake-out ending, they revive this cut quickly and pound out a highly inventive ending. Rad guitar riffs fuel the energy and the rhythm section never quits – we’re all bound to have our favorite songs on a record, and if a more old-school spin on a modern-day sound is your jam, this could very well be yours. They’ve done such a great job on the recording of this album that even when a song might not be your favorite of the bunch, you’ve really gotta appreciate just how rad everything sounds. Those drums sound spectacular! The guitar distortion rings out perfectly as they flow through the verse – and everyone just ROARS through the wild chorus of “Sweetwater” as the entire band takes it to the next level & beyond. With a quick four-count in Spanish, they completely fire-up the middle of this cut with noteworthy instrumentation and breakdown the sound masterfully before bringing it right back to its full potential to end “Sweetwater” with confidence and pure energy.
I just noticed that this record came out in 2016! How on earth did I miss this? I’d sure as hell miss this record now that I’ve heard it – I pretty much want this whole album to blast from my speakers all damn day long. “Still Talkin’” keeps their vibe flowing strongly, an audible confirmation that their lineup switch has led them to stellar results. LISTEN to the thunderous drums from Josh! This band is always on-point with their style & sound and the surrounding intensity supplied by the bass, guitars, and vocals, is always just as strong. Ain’t no weak spots in The Kings Rising – this band knows exactly how to execute and put everything they’ve got into every performance. By comparison to the rest of the tunes, “Still Talkin’” is likely going to have to fight a bit harder for your attention on those first couple spins, but overall, as an album, again, no weak points here and they’re never going to let your expectations down. When they kick this song into gear, they’re completely impressive as they switch timings, tempos, and energy – it really is something to listen to…these guys seem to know exactly what they’re going for. Loved that final switch on the way into the last ninety-seconds of “Still Talkin’” – highlight moments for the scorching guitar tones and innovative movements that keep us captivated right to the very end.
“Three Piece Suit” takes on a bit of a Stone Temple Pilots edge to the punch and grip of its chorus hooks – a natural fit for their style & sound as well. Guitar solos impress on this cut, as do the drums as well in the breakdown, and that final thirty seconds coming back to the emphatic way they stop/start/storm through this cut has real depths to its groove, satisfying the ears entirely. A short but sweet barnburner that completely hits the mark for its wild instrumentation & musicianship – you can just imagine how badass this crew must truly be when it comes time to let these songs rip from the stage live. The intensity and gigantic presence of “Three Piece Suit” continues to increase in power & strength from moment one to the very end, resulting in one of the real highlight finales you’ll find on this record as it comes to a close. It’s a style that suits them extraordinarily well…and like those incredible behemoths in STP pointed out long ago, it’s all in the suit that you wear, ain’t it?
The final track “Pistol” ends Pistolero Americana on solid ground. Every moment on this album has seriously been impressive, every song is right up there with the best of the early grunge-rock days – and for me personally, considering I grew up on much of the same music they obviously did, I can’t even begin to express just how much I truly love this record they’ve made here. It might have come out in 2016 – but I can tell ya without a doubt, The Kings Rising is still one of the best sounds I’ve heard this year and I’ve got every plan in place to make this whole album & band a regular staple of my diet. The chorus of this final cut has Stone right up there in the most fascinating parts of his vocal register once again, unleashing the beast within one final time before the album’s over. The verse itself sounds like they’ve found that STP gear once again…somewhere right around the No. 4 album’s era, and the switch between that & the Soundgarden-ish sound that takes over the chorus is flawless in its transition. It’s like The Kings Rising consistently brings back an element or two from music’s history that you completely love and want to hear more of while continuously offering you their own perspective on these familiar sounds to twist it into a genuinely all-new to experience. I love this band and I love this record – I already feel like I couldn’t live without’em!
Find out more about The Kings Rising at their official website: http://www.tkrband.com/
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