For Fans Of
For over a decade, I Killed the Prom Queen have been one of the most well-respected names tied to heavy music in Australia. One of few acts of their time to garner near-universal praise throughout local scenes, their demise in 2008 following two much-loved studio albums marked both a significant loss and the beginning of a proud legacy, as hordes of bands formed in their wake attempted to emulate their brand of metalcore; few coming close to the real thing. Reuniting in 2011 with original members Jona Weinhofen and Kevin Cameron along with three new recruits, there was a level of skepticism about whether a new record would live up to the first two. For fans who grew up listening to the band, these are unwarranted fears. Six years since they called it quits, on third album ‘Beloved’ it’s like they never even left.
Opener ‘Beginning of the End’ begins with clean, ambient guitar chords before introducing new vocalist Jamie Hope’s bloodthirsty snarl. It’s something of a departure from the straight-to-the-jugular opens we’re used to on IKTPQ albums, but it does nothing to downplay the immediate impact of first "proper" track ‘To the Wolves’. Within moments, those familiar metallic guitar tones and double kicks remind listeners just who this band really is at the core. Blistering riffs coupled with a simultaneously frenzied and disciplined rhythm section have always been the guts of Prom Queen’s sound and this time around is no different. Hope’s vocals fit into the fold fairly comfortably, his growl a mite harsher than past frontmen Michael Crafter and Ed Butcher. Given that Hope was once the pipes behind death metal outfit The Red Shore, it’s unsurprising his vocals are fairly lower and more savage than his predecessors. From an aesthetic perspective, this is easily the best the band have ever sounded. Swedish producer Fredrik Nordström returns to the helm after working on ‘Music for the Recently Deceased’ and there’s a sublime balance; the album sounds professional and polished without losing any punch.
While that old familiar Prom Queen vibe is undeniably there, the songwriting feels less headstrong than in previous efforts, more ambitious, nuanced and meticulous than before. The guitarwork is inventive while never feeling too left-field, as Cameron and Weinhofen play off one another. Middle track ‘Kjærlighet’, with fragile, softly-sung verses and a string section underpinning the whole song are elements that would have been perhaps hard to imagine as a Prom Queen work of old. For one, Weinhofen makes a far more pronounced appearance vocally, juxtaposing Hope’s roar with soaring cleans on tracks like ‘Bright Enough’. There’s also a greater focus on melody, . However, it’s important to note that these aren’t the kind of new developments that will alienate lifers. Don’t forget, some of IKTPQ’s most popular tracks (‘Say Goodbye’, ‘Columbian Necktie’ et al) feature full-blown choruses speared by Weinhofen’s dulcet tones. In a lot of ways, ‘Beloved’ feels like a fairly natural progression as far as songwriting is concerned, but perhaps not one that would have been made if the band hadn’t had half a decade to mature.
After what seems like an eternity, ‘Beloved’ feels as vital and distinctive as the first time you played ‘When Goodbye Means Forever…’ in your bedroom. It’s a bold declaration of forward momentum while doing classic I Killed the Prom Queen the way only they know how. For a band so often imitated to varying quality, there’s something incredibly satisfying about hearing the real thing, new and confident, for the first time in years. Longtime fans can put worries aside – they nailed it.
1. Beginning of the End
2. To the Wolves
3. Bright Enough
5. Thirty One & Sevens
6. Calvert Street
8. The Beaten Path
10. No One Will Save Us