Bandcamp [Release date 23.04.21]
Underking is in fact a one-man band consisting of Maxwell Jeffries hailing from Nottingham and this is Underking’s third album. Maxwell has been working on this album for over a year, with the songs covering “topics and stories that I’m passionate about, from sci-fi and fantasy to world events and mental health and the music also reflects where I’m at currently in my career.” The production/sound is very good and one for the headphones on certain songs.
Good mix of styles on ‘At Hell’s Gate’, from the epic metal on ‘Shadow I’ve Become’ through to the instrumental ‘Oblivion’, which features plenty of skilful guitar playing. Shades of Savatage and Iron Maiden in the guitar sound. For a real dandruff shaker ‘Embrace The Arcane’ does the job. The riffs on this one are massive and then some.
Maxwell’s vocals are pretty decent too, similar to fellow Brit metal band Intense. Strong enough to be heard over the musical metal assault, yet never straining to be heard.
The album’s final track ‘No Mercy’ is the only one to feature any guest musicians and in this case a whole host of Underking’s fans and band members from fellow metal acts contribute to the metal choir added to the song’s chorus. Also Charlotte Corry plays sax on this one with Dustin Parlier of Two Eyes Open on co-vocals.
The bonus track is something totally different, a cover of ‘Halloween’ by the Misfits, by way of an Underking overhaul.
For a self-produced album Underking packs a satisfying metal filled punch. SF/fantasy lyrics, plenty of riffs and solos, big choruses, listenable vocals – what’s not to like for those who like their metal traditional with a hint of the grandiose. ***1/2
Review by Jason Ritchie
Max Jeffries gives us a bit more background on Underking and the new album…
For those unfamiliar with Underking how did the band/project come about?
Underking came about after my old band Rage Cave split up. I needed a new outlet for my music and I after trying to find members, to no avail, I decided to go it alone! This lets me have full creative control over my music which is pretty cool! I’ve been able to cover everything from hardcore, to classic NWOBHM, to thrash and ballads so far – so its definitely a very varied project.
At Hell’s Gate is all your own work, bar a couple of guests. How easy or difficult is it to create music on your own? Ie do you perhaps miss the ideas that may come out of a band situation.
It’s definitely not easy but it is very fulfilling – I enjoy it very much. I do miss having people around to bounce ideas off and share the excitement with which can be difficult at times but I think the freedom being solo allows outweighs that! The feeling of getting an idea, recording it and having full control over every instrument is amazing!
What made you want to start making music and who are your main musical influences?
Music has always been a big part of my life. Ever since I was little I’ve been surrounded by it and it was only a matter of time before I got into it seriously really! I started to develop a really intense interest in music at around 9 or 10, loving stuff by Dragonforce, Owl City, Sum 41, Rammstein – a real melting pot of influences. Over time though, the bands that have really stuck with me and influence me are Judas Priest, Ghost, Kvelertak, Megadeth – too many to name. I’m really interested in harmony, so anything with a catchy tune either on the guitar or sung inspires me to try and write something!
How did the idea for the Metal backing choir arise on No Mercy? You also use sax on this one which almost gives it a folk metal feel. Again, where did that idea come from?With the current lockdown looking to ease are you planning any live shows for later this year?
The idea of the choir was pretty simple really! I wanted to create a big, epic closer for the album and when I was asking Dustin and Charlotte if they wanted to appear on the track, I thought why not get some fans involved! I spread the word online and soon had people singing on my track from all over the world! It was an incredible experience and one of the highlights of my music career so far!
With the saxophone, that was inspired by Ghost’s epic instrumental track – Miasma from their latest record! I distinctly remember being blown away when I heard that for the first time and whilst the sax in No Mercy is a little less ‘in your face’, I still think it adds something really special to the track.
With the current lockdown looking to ease are you planning any live shows for later this year?
I am currently trying to put a live band together! So hopefully, all being well, I should be able to start playing some shows!
How has the pandemic affected your songwriting as this is an album that has been recorded since March 2020.
The pandemic has allowed me to write a lot more music than usual. As I record everything it home, I’ve had a lot more time to just sit and play my guitar, record and come up with ideas. It’s been very rewarding and as much as I love releasing songs at my current rate, I am looking forward to slowing things down a little once the world opens up!
Message for your fans and where can we buy the album from…
Thank you so much for having me and to everyone who’s listened to/supported Underking so far! The album, At Hell’s Gate, will be available everywhere (Spotify, YouTube, Apple Music etc…) on the 23rd of April! If you want to keep up to date with what I’m doing – you can follow Underking on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter!
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