freaKINGS – “Gladiator”


Gladiator artworkIf you’re missing old-school thrash metal, do whatever you need to find freaKINGS latest release Gladiator.  To give you an idea, we’re talking the sounds and speed of Vengeance Rising, Mortification, Deliverance, and even old Slayer and Kill Em All era Metallica, where machine gun fire drums and riffs abound.

Put very simply, freaKINGS is a thrash metal band from Basel, Switzerland.  Gladiator is their second release, with their debut No Way Out  coming out in 2011.  The recording process for Gladiator was similar to No Way Out in that the band recorded in their rehearsal space and mixing/mastering done by Christoph at Iguana Studios in Germany.  As they are currently not on a label, Gladiator is an independent release.

Finding new bands that you like is always a cool thing and less than 20 seconds into the first song “Kingdom”, I was hooked.  The song starts out with a slower intro and then abruptly changes into the rapid fire riffs and drums that are unmistakably thrash metal.  Vocals are a bit on the rough side but fit with the tone and feel of the music and the English is very good but does have a slight awkwardness in phrasing.  That being said, it doesn’t take away from the songs at all, so I’m just pointing out what you’ll hear.  In terms of how the vocals sound, I get a distinct impression of Lemmy from Motorhead at times, so that’s actually cool and works well.  For me the biggest surprise is that all of this sound is coming from just three band members.  The sound is full, production and mixing is good and fits the genre very well, so despite the recording in the rehearsal space and independent nature, the quality is very high.

Full on thrash for a full album can get overwhelming for the listener and songs like “The Day Will Come”  show the maturity in songwriting that freaKINGS has.   The beginning is typical thrash but the song has some strong melodic sections that break up the thrash verses very nicely and almost bring a sense of groove into play.  Guitar solos occur throughout the album and also bring a nice change of pace as they are not all super-fast, play as many notes as possible.

From what I can tell, the band has changed their sound a bit since their debut No Way Out.  Some of this can be heard in the song “Thrash Metal” as there is an older video of the song on the internet.  In the older version the vocals were definitely death metal in style with a deep raspy growling tone, but  for Gladiator, the death metal growl has shifted to a more clean shouted approach, which to me fits the music better.  While I haven’t heard much from No Way Out, what I have heard musically is similar to Gladiator, so it appears the vocal style is the main difference in the overall sound.

Within thrash and the quest for speed in the music, there is the potential for creating songs that simply sound the same.  freaKINGS have managed to avoid this trap by mixing in some mid-tempo songs and show strong songwriting and arrangement skills by mixing different elements into the songs, keeping things interesting for the listener.  The speed is certainly there and their ability to splay ultra-fast is never in question.  Even within those songs there a little touches, like some creative drum and guitar fills that add a unique touch to the songs.

To my ears, I simply don’t encounter much thrash anymore.  Actually, I haven’t heard anything like freaKINGS in quite some time, especially from a new release.  Hearing this makes me realize how much I’ve missed bands with this sound.  Combining the speed and perhaps attitude of punk with metal guitars and drums certainly makes for a great sound and makes this one my top albums for the year.

Rating: 9/10

Written by John Jackson

1. kingdom
2. the day will come
3. gladiator
4. hate in our veins
5. till death
6. the life
7. thrash metal
8. atomic idiocy
9. rod of gods wrath
10. why
11. false god

Band Members
Simon Straumann – Drums
Toby Straumann – Bass
Jonathan Brutschin – Guitar, vocals

Record Label: Independent, Sept. 2014

Weblinks: Facebook  / Website / Reverbnation

Buy the album here:
 First Paradox 
 Nordic Mission

Interview with freaKINGS [July 2014]

Video below ‘Rod of God’s wrath’

Video below “Gladiator” (album promo)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts