Published on November 18th, 2016 | by Justin G.
Pretty Maids: Kingmaker
In an increasingly chaotic and unpredictable world, it’s nice to know there are some things you can always count on. Like beer. And cat videos. And the fact that a new Pretty Maids album is always going to rule. The long-running Danish melodic metal band is one of the rare bands that has never released a bad album, and since hooking up with producer Jacob Hansen, they’ve been releasing some of the best albums of their entire career.
Kingmaker is the band’s latest offering. It’s the 15th Pretty Maids album, and finds the Hammer/Atkins/Shades/Tschicaja lineup returning, with Kim Olesen (Anubis Gate) filling in on keys after Morten Sandager’s departure. As noted, Jacob Hansen is back on board handling production, mixing and mastering.
There really isn’t a band better at combining the best elements of melodic hard rock and heavy metal than Pretty Maids, and they’ve turned in another absolutely fantastic album here. Ken Hammer’s melodies are so perfect, no matter how heavy (or soft) the songs are, and Ronnie Atkins always puts so much power and emotion in his delivery. The lyrics range you’re your typical love songs to the light social commentary, so there’s some depth to these songs.
Kingmaker has all of the things you expect from a great Pretty Maids album: dynamite heavy metal songs (“Kingmaker,” “Humanize Me”), ridiculously catchy melodic rockers (“Bull’s Eye,” “Face the World”) and some point between the two (“Heaven’s Little Devil,” “When God Took a Day Off”). And of course there’s the obligatory ballad (“Last Beauty on Earth”) that would sound cheesy if it were done by any other band, but just sounds gorgeous in Pretty Maids’ hands. There isn’t a single weak track on the album, and it doesn’t take more than a spin or two to know that some of these songs will quickly become fan favorites.
Beyond the musicianship (which rules), the vocals (which rule) and the songwriting (which rules), the production job is also first-rate. Nobody but Jacob Hansen should ever be allowed to produce a Pretty Maids album. And holy wow that cover art. So many covers these days are forgettable, but this one is so striking and fits the album’s title perfectly.
You really can’t go wrong with this one. Long-time Pretty Maids fans (or even fans who have come on board since Pandemonium) are going to absolutely love Kingmaker. Fans of harder-hitting melodic rock and melodic metal – think Dynazty, Masterplan, Jorn and the like – should love this album as well. Kingmaker is essentially a perfect melodic metal album, and is every bit as good as Pandemonium and Motherland, which are pretty much untouchable in their own right. If you’ve been making a “best of 2016” list, you’re going to need to shuffle it around, because Pretty Maids deserves a very high place with Kingmaker.
PS – This makes three albums this year that feature Ronnie Atkins on vocals (Avantasia’s Ghostlights and the Nordic Union debut are the others), and all three are among the year’s best releases.
Summary: It rules. Buy it.