Chronicles of the North is the debut full-length album by Swedish power metal act Last Kingdom. The album was released in 2012 and follows on from a couple of prior demo releases from 2007 and 2009 respectively. All of the songs from their demo era are featured on Chronicles of the North, as well as a few new songs.
Last Kingdom are a power metal band through and through. That basically means hell of a lot of melody and speed, speed and yep you guessed it, even more speed. It’s occasionally wrapped up in a symphonic context but overall Chronicles of the North is much more the melodic power metal album opposed to a symphonic power metal album. It’s somewhat generic what Last Kingdom have done here, but that’s okay, because this kind of power metal is the sort of power metal that is made by the book so faithfully, that there is little chance of the release not packing a serious punch and being right up the alley of the power metal veteran.
But there’s a problem. His name is Stefan Jacobsen and he’s the vocalist of the band. Jacobsen doesn’t have an unpleasant voice as such, nor is he anywhere near as bad as I’ve seen some make him out to be, but in the context of Chronicles of the North his voice just doesn’t work to do the music justice. Musically Last Kingdom delivered something absolutely intense and killer here but it is spoilt by the decidedly not powerful enough vocal performance. Now, I’m pretty sure Jacobsen gave it his all recording this album, but unfortunately he is just not gifted enough to handle this sort of music, which is a shame, because his actual singing style has power metal written all over it. Like the music, his performance is completely by the book, only unlike the music his performance is at best passable and ultimately I’m just left with feelings of how Chronicles of the North would number among 2012’s best power metal albums if it only had a stronger vocalist to handle the material which otherwise has everything else going for it.
Chronicles of the North is as such a very frustrating album for me. I want to love it, because musically it is power metal as it should be played. But I can’t love it, because vocals are the usual deal breaker in any kind of music for me, and while this deal may not be as badly broken as some albums I’ve encountered in the past, it’s still a major kick in the teeth. Overall a good album tier rating is deserved, but this one could have been worth oh so much more.
(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven (http://metaltube.freeforums.org))