The mid 2018 released self-titled album Küenring from the Austrian band Küenring is a heavy metal bombshell, but a bombshell with an inscription on the side “Happy greetings from the 80’s!” and it left me from the first few chords with a smile on my face. To be honest: I am a bit biased where it comes to the golden days of NWOBHM and this album, albeit Austrian, could as well have its roots into the Bay Area.
The power packed album is almost an homage to the early roots of heavy metal, the time where Metallica’s Kill ’em All was just released, Bonded By Blood from Exodus was just announced, Ronny James Dio touring with Dio, but – to be fair – with a few tricks from the present day picked up along the way. I said ‘almost an homage’ with a reason, because it isn’t an homage: it’s a good album and does not deserve to be put down as a rip-off. Although, truth be told, I must remind myself not to attempt to find the original inspiration for each song.
The name, derived from a 12th-16th century ancient bloodline of Austrian knights, carries the “obligated metal umlaut” with pride – their hearts rooted into metal and into the Austrian soil. And rooted into metal is to be taken literal. Besides from the cover art one might argue the album is a cliché metal product, but I beg to differ. Even though it depends heavily onto the solid metal works of old it’s an epic album and, with some remarks, should be seen as it is: an incredible well-done debut album. Front man (and bassist Stefan Gutenthaler) might lack the expressive -and sometimes over the top- vocals from some of the demi-gods of the 80’s, but -again- we should not compare!
Loosely following the track list of the album, some notes on the album. The album starts with Streetfight which does not leave any question marks: this is straight forward metal to be continued with Into the Night. Odyssey is aptly named: it’s an odyssey of proportion with enough riffing and solos to leave a mark.
Autumn, the instrumental ballad on the album is a bit of a hate-or-love-it track. It sets the bar for future expanding dual guitar compositions, but – in the eye of the beholder – it feels stretched a bit too far to stay comfortable – a track which, in my case, will be skipped more often than listened completely. From Unknown, the fifth track and forward the tracks are more elaborated and less straight forward 80’s riffing. A special note on Hounds of Küenring, the second to last track of the album. It could be me mistaken, but in my opinion it’s the bands’ anthem. It’s a conclusion and a summary of the album.
The production is a good compromise between the dynamic sounds of the early 80’s and the fully pumped loudness war and triggered albums. It has a nice organic feel without sounding too much like a garage recording. With one – albeit minor – note: the last song of the album Rise of the Madman feeling rushed and messy. On the album in general I can say it’s a nice addition to anyone liking straight heavy metal and/or the golden days of NWOBHM.