GATHERING OF KINGS – First Mission (2019)
A true super-group / project, GATHERING OF KINGS will release its debut CD titled “First Mission” tomorrow. The project is the creation of hugely talented Victor Olsson (from terric Swedish band Saffire) who wrote all the songs, except ‘The Runaway’, penned by Maurice & Robin Gibb from Bee Gees. The song is a cover of Carola’s pop hit single from 1986.
But don’t be fooled, “First Mission” is a killer melodic hard rock album with a strong 80s AOR touch featuring some of the most impressive musicians from the current scene.
Just check the personnel below.
The project has similar approach to Phenomena’s ’80s albums, here comprising Scandinavian musicians. Last November it was announced that GoK will play on the 2019 edition of Sweden Rock Festival, alongside Rainbow, Def Leppard and more. A historical achievement as no other new band in the history of the festival has been confirmed before the release of its first album.
“The Gathering” is an instrumental prelude performed by maestro Olsson himself, who leads us seamlessly into “Forever And A Day”, a fantastic melodic rocker driven by Richard Larsson’s (Night flight Orchestra) keyboards which brings to mind Bon Jovi’s classic ‘Runaway’. An inspired vocal performance by Björn Strid (Soilwork, Night flight Orchestra) lifts the song to dizzying heights!
Rick Altzi (Masterplan, Herman Frank, At Vance) sings like a young Paul Stanley on the rockin’ following number “Love Will Stay Alive”. This high-energy tune has a nod to ’80s KISS era circa “Asylum” and “Crazy Nights”. Olsson’s guitar and keyboard solo becomes the icing on the cake in this arena ready monster.
“Endless Paradise” is a fantastic midtempo AOR tune, a showcase for Tobias Jansson (Saffire) vocal abilities and Olsson’s incredible talent to craft arrangements. So this is almost a Saffire song, which confirms why we have chosen their last album among the ‘Best Of’ 2018. Terrific.
Apollo Papathanasio (Spiritual Beggars, Firewind et all) performs ”Saviour” with a lovely classy feeling akin Gary Barden (MSG, Praying Mantis) and Graham Bonnet (Rainbow, Alcatrazz). However, musically the tune draw parallels to giants such as Survivor, Journey and Foreigner. As a ice on the cake we get a beautifully progression of keyboards signed by Richard Larsson. Another gem on an album plenty of them.
“Passing rain” starts with the melancholy guitar line reminiscent of both “Love Walks In” (Thunder) and “Nothing Else Matters” (Metallica). An atmospheric melody that eventually grows into a monster rocker. Rick Altzi’s hot raspy vocals and Olsson’s guitar at the final part burn along the your spine and haunt you long after the song’s end.
“Out Of My Life” sounds like a hybrid between early Bon Jovi and Dio – yes, believe me, and works greatly – while “Lonely Road” contains all the ingredients a powerful modern melodic hard rock track requires: a sharp riff in the Eclipse vein (Erik Martensson play guitar here), powerful verses, a half-stroke bridge and a catchy chorus. Jens Westin (Corroded), with a nice full bottom in the voice, delivers muscular melodies.
“Angels” is to my ears Graham Bonnet era with Rainbow updated to 2019. The finest moment, apart from the captivating chorus, is the solo that reminds you a lot of Richie Blackmore at his peak.
Alexander Frisborg’s (Helldog) takes the lead vocals for “Long Way From Home”. This man has a peculiar voice color, angelical and sweet melodious, which perfectly fits the ’80s melodic rock / AOR nature of the song. A really emotional tune that will bring to you some memories… just love this one.
The version of Carola’s pop hit “The Runaway” may seem an odd cover choice, but as said, Olsson is a genius arranger, turning this into a Melodic Rock / AOR diamond. A proof that a good song is always a good song even dressed in new musical dress, this is a magical ’80s sounding track and another highlight. Once again, Björn Strid is terrific at the microphone to round off the regular release tracklist with this fine tribute to one of Sweden’s best singers ever.
Last but not least, we find the CD bonus track “Battle Cry”, again with an ’80s feel but also early ’90s sound; think Goran Edman / Yngwie Malmsteen meets Michael Schenker. This is also the heaviest track on the album providing some bite with a superb guitar work by Olsson and Jens Westin, whilst Rick Altzi is in great shape at the mic.
I usually tend to be skeptical about All-Star projects as it usually looks better on paper than it actually sounds. Gathering Of Kings’ “First Mission” is a brilliant exception.
You have it all here; superb songwriting, heavenly arrangements and faultless performances. It is clear that everyone involved has gone into this project with love and desire. Special mention goes to veteran Nalle Påhlsson (Treat): his sleek bass licks are amazingly tasteful on all tracks… you actually can hear the bass usually buried into the mix.
Victor Olsson is, in addition to a master guitarist / keyboardist, a songwriting talent far beyond the ordinary. Each individual track could have been released as single.
Thomas “Plec” Johansson’s (Night Flight Orchestra, Dynazty) production is huge, crystal clear and distinctive, providing a classy sound yet powerful and modern.
Only few weeks of this 2019, and we already have an album that will be part of many ‘Best Of’ lists this year.
So what are you waiting for? Order now.
01. The Gathering
02. Forever And A Day
03. Love Will Stay Alive
04. Endless Paradise
06. Passing Rain
07. Out Of My Life
08. Lonely Road
10. Long Way From Home
11. The Runaway (Carola cover)
CD BONUS TRACK:
12. Battle Cry
Tobias Jansson – vocals (Saffire)
Rick Altzi – vocals (Masterplan, Herman Frank, At Vance)
Björn Strid – vocals (Soilwork, The Night Flight Orchestra)
Apollo Papathanasio – vocals (Spiritual Beggars, Firewind)
Jens Westin – vocals and Guitar (Corroded)
Alexander Frisborg – vocals (Helldog)
Victor Olsson – guitar and keyboards (Saffire)
Stefan Helleblad – guitar (Within Temptation, Jono)
Martin Sweet – guitar (Crashdiet, Sister)
Erik Martensson – guitar (Eclipse, W.E.T, Nordic Union)
Nalle Påhlsson – bass (Therion, Treat)
Richard Larsson – keyboards (The Night Flight Orchestra)
Chris Laney – keyboards (Pretty Maids)
Erik Wiss – keyboards (Cap Outrun)
Jonas Källsbäck – drums (The Night Flight Orchestra, Mean Streak)
Efraim Larsson – drums (Streamline, Diamond Dawn)
Robban Bäck – drums (Mustasch, Eclipse, Sabaton, W.E.T)
Henrik Sethsson – backing vocals (Casanovas)