Following on almost immediately from their debut album White Bird/ Burn The Sky, which has received much critical success, Australian Rock sextet Palace of the King have now released Valles Marineris, which has moments of high quality and also – on occasion – Bad Newsesque clichedom.
Let’s get the good stuff out of the way first, simply because there is so much more of it. The opening Let The Blood Run Free, with Sean Johnstone’s neo-gothic keyboards heralding a pulsating bass provided by Andrew Gilpin and some tight guitar passages of Leigh Maden and Matthew Harrison guaranteed to set not only just about any album alight, but also any live experience. Added to these are the distinctive vocals of Tim Harwood and what you have – in a single outing – is a sweet recipe for a musical feast fit for, ahem, a king.
The years POTK have spent on the road honing and shaping their sound seem to have been poured into this one track alone, resulting in as rounded a four minutes plus as you are ever likely to find. The bar is set high from the off then, with Beyond the Valley coming in next with some delicious harmonies.
The energy here is a slow but relentless build towards a crescendo that works so well, whilst the funk infused master of Black Cloud – added to by the delicious vocals provided by Mahalia, daughter of Cold Chisel’s Jimmy Barnes – shows a depth to the band’s playing and in particular their ability to write lyrics emboldened with a not so subtle lasciviousness.
This track, along with the richly overdubbed, progressive rock-ribbed and slightly haunting Into The Black are the two stand out tracks by a country mile, with both showing a maturity and understanding of what works beyond rubies.
It’s quite strange then that with two such pots of gold on their wagon they should wish to taint the cargo with crass silliness. Check out We Are The Vampires or Throw Me To The Wolves and try not to envisage either Vim Fuego or David St Hubbins having an absolute field day.
This said though, with River Of Fire taking a riff that is eerily similar to that of The Beatles’ Come Together, injecting some venom into the proceedings then sailing on through to calmer, more scenic waters than either of the two previous tracks managed to navigate, Valles Marineris remains a worthy addition to any Rock lovers collection.
1. Let The Blood Run Free
2. Beyond The Valley
3. Black Cloud
4. The Bridge of the Gods
5. We Are the Vampires
6. Empire of the Sun
7. Sick as a Dog
8. River of Fire
9. Throw Me to the Wolves
10. Into The Black