Unusually, I am going to start this review with someone else’s words. The following paragraphs are extracted directly from the biographical collateral which accompanied the promotional copy of King 810‘s debut album. Nothing has been edited.
“You’ve never been somewhere like this before. You won’t forget it though. It’s only about six miles, and there’s no looming and booming metropolis to retreat to. Instead, wilderness chokes the outskirts as abandoned homes, warehouses, and factories line these streets that play host to thousands of faceless ghosts.
“Flint, MI, the forgotten city, is where KING 810 call home and it’s the dystopian dwelling that sets the back drop for the band’s debut LP, Memoirs of a Murderer. With no mayor to preside over the bereft community and a miniscule police force, Flint, MI teaches its young to fend for themselves. Memoirs of a Murderer is an embodiment of KING 810’s life within this pressure cooker, a glimpse into the personal account of this disappearing metropolis where tree branches live longer than the children do.
“Memoirs of a Murderer is a memoir of the life of frontman David Gunn set to the backdrop of Flint, MI. Cut to a crackling old tape recorder, Gunn’s narrative eclipses three distinct movements, traveling from a very real place down a rabbit hole into the abstract. The three movements align with Freud’s psychoanalytic theory of personality, in which the three elements of personality – known as the id, the ego and the superego – work together to create complex human behaviors.”
What the above sentences omit is an another assertion made by Gunn, when he notes that Flint is often referred to as “America’s Most Dangerous City” a/k/a “Murdertown USA”. It’s a city where death and the smell of cordite are a way of life – something, as someone brought up, for many years, with armed police and soldiers on every street corner, helicopters incessantly droning overhead and the constant fear of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, this reviewer can empathize and identify with.
Understandably then, ‘Memoirs Of A Murderer’ is a violent album. It needs to be. It has to be. It is an album begat in violence, and which pays respect to that violence – without glorifying or justifying it: it recognizes its roots, its genesis, in a way which is both inescapable and affirming – an affirmation that, despite the circumstances of its upbringing, there is light in even the darkest corners and hope in even the most hopeless situations, a better road to follow, if only you know where to look for it on the blood-soaked map of your life.
‘Memoirs…’ takes the format of just that – a diary, divided into three distinct sections, each introduced by a spoken word passage, dictated by Gunn into the battered tape recorder mentioned above… The album actually starts with the venomous, Slipknot-esque ‘Kill ‘Em All’, which very much sets the mood for the musical experience that is to follow: Gunn almost narrates the lyrics, spitting them from his mouth while portraying numerous characters, including the originator of horrific acts of violence and the hapless, helpless bystander caught up, open-mouthed in the mayhem aound him – a multi-dimensional, multiple character narrative form he utilizes throughout ‘Memoirs…’ The main guitar riffs is suitably stabbing and acidic, a pattern which is repeated on ‘Best Night Of My Life’: prequeled by Gunn setting the recording process in motion, the singer again looks at his subject from multiple angles – the thrill and rush of instigating or participating in an act of violence, counterpointed by the later regret of an actually unwilling participant., while ‘Fat Around The Heart’ is a challenge to those drawn to the mystique of violence without truly thinking through the consequences of becoming involved.
The second movement is deeply introspective: ‘Eyes’ and ‘Devil Don’t Cry’ – like ‘Take It’ in the first segment – possess a suitable melancholic sanguinity (the latter has almost Nick Cave-like drollness to it), as Gunn looks at the effect of the violent deeds recounted in the first act on his heart and soul. The violence is still there, largely lurking in the background, but bubbling to the surface on the punishing ‘Desperate Lovers’, but the approach to the subject matter is more philosopical and the lines of the narrative are appropriately billed, as it is unclear whether he is speaking as the victim or perpetrator of the acts. The third and final section brings together the main themes of the first two – the acceptance of fate while at the same trying to escape it, the desire to do so being hampered at every turn by the reality of the situation around the narrator, as best evoked on the dualistic counterparting of ‘War Outside’ and ‘Write About Us’: the former with its recognition of the aforesaid reality, the latter a desire for the story of those involved to be told to the wider world and delivered with a mournful honesty.
‘Memoirs…’ is not an easy album to listen to. It is as repulsive as it is fascinating, as hypnotic as it is antagonistic, as confrontational as it is rational – and, as you really listen to Gunn’s lyrics, you find it to be a cathartic, challenging and almost poignant experience.
Kill ‘Em All / (tape machine begins) / Best Night of My Life / Murder Murder Murder / Take It / Fat Around The Heart / Treading and Trodden / (spoken word 1) / Eyes / Desperate Lovers / Boogeymen / Devil Don’t Cry / (spoken word2) / Carve My Name / War Outside / Write About Us / State of Nature
Recommended listening: ‘Best Night Of My Life’ / ‘Fat Around The Heart’
‘Memoirs Of A Murderer’ is out now on Roadrunner Records.
King 810 play the following dates:
Tuesday September 23 – Bristol, Thekla
Wednesday September 24 – Glasgow, Classic Grand
Thursday September 25 – Birmingham, O2 Academy 2
Friday September 26 – London, O2 Academy Islington
Saturday September 27 – Manchester Academy 3
Support on all dates comes from Hang The Bastard and Astroid.
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