Album Review: High King by Emerald Rage

From the release of their first demo in 2017, to their recent single The Devil’s Warhead (featuring vocalist Tim “Ripper” Owens) – heavy/power metal band Emerald Rage has been nothing but amazingly consistent in their sound. From influences ranging from Iron Maiden, Thin Lizzy, Judas Priest, Helloween, and Running Wild, Emerald Rage is a great modern representation of how Heavy Metal has evolved. Recorded in guitarist Patrick Kern’s self made studio, High King will be the band’s debut album after years of demos and singles. I’m grateful that I’m acquainted with Jacob Wherley, their lead singer and guitarist, to be able to have the opportunity to share this review!

Before being able to hear the album in intended order, I was forced to listen to it out of order due to not being around my computer at the time, and had many separate opinions of the songs themselves. I was able to pinpoint the band’s main influences as well as subconscious influences in the background. I heard a lot of Motorhead in “The Empress” and Deep Purple in “Dire Wolves”. It can possibly be just me, but those were the bands that popped in my head when I heard the music. Throughout the entire album, I was so impressed by how much the vocals sound like someone combined a modern Dave Mustaine of Megadeth with Rob Halford from Judas Priest! I hear huge nods towards Celtic Folk music throughout the record as well. For recording in a self-made studio, all the songs sound relatively cohesive and pack a nice punch to the ears. I applaud the band’s effort behind this album! 

The album flows so much better in the intended order. “Into The Sky” is an 11/10 opener for the album. Nearly everything about this song is perfect; I only would have wished for the ending to transition smoothly into its next heavy hitter, “Wrathful Eyes”. Bassist Erik Curry along with the drums create a pounding intro. I was so surprised to hear that this was all MIDI drums, with no real drummer. I honestly believed it was a real person! I appreciate how the whole album is grabbing you straight in, all hooks with no breaks. With their self-titled song, it slows us down but maintains its heavy slaps. It delivers this Iron Maiden-like gallop from the guitars that make you head-bang intensely. So far, it’s been a great introduction into hearing this debut. “Heart Of A Pagan” picks it up again with an “Aces High” vibe. I even find it hysterical as the song makes me imagine Dave Mustaine fronting Iron Maiden and this being their new single! 

Emerald Rage playing live at Buzzbin Art & Music Shop

Lemme tell you, I FREAKED OUT when I heard “Dire Wolves” after a couple of listens. I realized the opening notes reminded me SO MUCH of Neutral Milk Hotel’s “King of Carrot Flowers Pts. 2 & 3”. I YELLED when I played both of the songs at the same time; it was the same NOTE! Besides that musical connection, it’s my favorite in terms of vocal ad libbing. We get progressively more Megadeth with the vocals as “White Stag” prances into the picture. I seriously love it and hate it because it can be so memeable. This also seemed to be one of the more proggier songs on the album, switching gears and speed throughout the majority of the track. “The Empress” feels more like a song to drive recklessly to, even with its regal title. It feels as if Lemmy Kilmister himself is blessing the band with his sound. Originally, I had pegged “Goddess Freya” as a filler song of sorts, but I hear more of the European Power Metal influences as I listen to it more. Ending with “Wings Of Solitude”, we get a huge insight to the cultural inspirations of the band. It’s an amazing nod to Celtic Folk music and shows how much Emerald Rage appreciates different cultures, as well as their main influence of Thin Lizzy. 

All my praise should be taken with some criticisms though, as I have noticed many things that COULD be improved for future records. Musically, the band isn’t pushing anything new, but is a honest representation of how modern metal bands are influenced by all metal of the past. Emerald Rage has created a great debut album, with great singles to boot. I liked it for its stability and familiarity to old works, as well as its creativeness with mixing influences. It is truly a modern heavy/power metal band! I disliked it for a lack of direction with the vocals. It felt as if it lacked a touch of energy and enjoyment when one listened to it. Don’t get me wrong, the vocals HAD power and they complimented the songs well, but it felt as if it missed a bit of range and exploration, to deliver the stories in a more expressive way. In “Dire Wolves”, I mentioned I love the ad libbing, which is what I believe the rest of the album needed more of. Just a touch of more excitement with the vocals and they would be on par with the music. You can say it felt a bit stale, or if the band held back a bit, but with this being a debut album? This shit was solid as fuck. It was very Dio-esque, and in that sense, I appreciate the vocals for what they are… but I would love to see the band try to explore more melodic range! The lyrics told great stories for the band’s sound. The band delivered the sound and lyrical content together like a well-packed sandwich. All the writings about mythology, war, royalty… A great touch, even if the lyrics do not resonate with me personally. I would love to see more experimentation with lyricism just to spice things up! I can imagine some sort of Shakespearean forms of writing with this kind of music – I can see the huge potential this band has! 

From left to right: Patrick Kern (Guitar), Jacob Wherley (Vocals, Guitar), and Erik Curry (Bass Guitar)

Besides these small criticisms, please don’t ignore the praise! If you’re a huge metal fan and love checking out new metal music, you gotta check out Emerald Rage! They absolutely nailed it with this debut album. From killer demos and singles, to a solid debut, I can see a huge future for these guys! The band, and Jacob more specifically, would like to thank all the friends and family who have supported them along the way and helped them get where they are. They’d also like to thank all their musical influences and inspirations like Michael Kiske, Rudolf Schenker, Rob Halford, James Hetfield, Phil Lynnott and many others. 

My favorite songs off this album include: “Into The Sky”, “Wrathful Eyes”, “The Empress”, and “Wings Of Solitude”.  I give it a nice 7.5/10. You can check out High King, released through Stormspell Records on Tuesday July 6th, 2021!

Check out the band’s other works at their Bandcamp! Follow them on Facebook! Here’s their YouTube!

Here’s their last single, “The Devil’s Warhead” featuring Tim “Ripper” Owens!

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