Kings of Improg. Wait I just realized I have no idea what “IMPROG” means. I should get to asking them that. Anyway, the King of Improg (KoI) is an instrumental progressive rock band from Johannesburg, South Africa.
According to their bandcamp the band has been together for 5 years (since 2012) their music “blends an eclectic mix of genres from hard alternative rock to progressive metal with blues, jazz & reggae influences, & everything in between, often describing themselves as a progressive psychedelic instrumental blues rock jam band.”
I dunno about you guys but I think that should make for a pretty interesting sound, if done well. Genre blends can be tricky and its only when we see someone do it wrong we remember and appreciate those who did it right.
Okay….where was I? Oh yes, the album.
The album kicks off with the song “Ferrum” (so many strange words around this band) and the segment in it that would have been where the verses were sang on sounds like it could have made a pretty cool soundtrack for a retro-video game. Specifically an early 90’s side scrolling action/horror type deal. The more energetic part that follows, that could have been the chorus, sounds like a riff that would have been at home in the 80s/90s. And in classic “progressive” style when we approach the half way point of the song things switch up and it almost feels like an entirely different song during that segment. Things do switch back to the 80s/90s-esque riffing about a minute to the end of the song.
“Keymaker” comes next and has a harder rock/alternative rock/nu metal feel to its major riffs. Then it hits me as the song goes on. The production, mixing recording….all that jazz, on the album is really well done. The guitars sound distorted the drums sound organic. But it’s all clean and well done. I also found it interesting that this progressive rock song that is over 6 minutes in length it never seems to get dull, despite the lack of elements I am used to hearing in progressive type songs (palm muting, odd time signature riffs etc.)
Then comes one of the 2 songs on the album that just sounded…different. But different in a good way. The song “Gaea” starts off with some ambient sounds and string picking on a not-distorted guitar. This is followed by one of the Jazziest riffs I have heard in a rock song. The sound was fun and different and cool. And honestly, it’s probably the most memorable song on the album. Falling just a few seconds short of the 8-minute mark, this is one of the longest songs on the album. In fact, it is a long song, PERIOD. But somehow it doesn’t get boring. Things switch up to a hard rock/alternative metal sound about 3 minutes into the album and while I miss the jazzy stuff, the hard rock sound didn’t ruin anything. I think the part that was meant to be “reggae”…didn’t sound very reggae enough, in fact until I listened to the album after reading their bio, I just thought of it as part of the hard rock segment.
“Insurgent”…….yes that’s the name of the song. But it means you no hard, don’t worry. On this song, things go back to sounding hard rock mostly. The riffs are a bit jazzy but the distortion present in the riffs keeps it from getting as jazzy as the previous song. The song also features some really cool solos that sound like something from the Guns n Roses era of music.
“Enigma” comes next and is the longest track on the album, being over 8 minutes. The opening riffs of the song feature some melancholic guitar riffs that transition into more hard rock territory close to the two-minute mark. I do feel this is not one of their strongest tracks, not because it feels dragged out but because the riff never stays in my mind past 2 minutes after I listen to it. And I never seem to remember why or how come I enjoyed the song. Yes, it is a well-written song but it’s not the most memorable.
“Ascension” the final track on the album, unfortunately, has the same problem as “Enigma”. Although it is the shortest song on the album and has some cool guitar work, I never seem to remember the song once it’s done. I enjoy it when I listen to it and it does have a bit of that “album closer” feel. But it doesn’t have that ear worm effect.
Honestly, there’s only one thing that really felt wasn’t well done with the album and that’s that the songs, especially the last two…more Enigma than Ascension, aren’t very catchy/memorable. Besides its length, there’s nothing I remember about Enigma when I am not listening to it. But when I do want to listen to it, I actually enjoy it. Not as much as Gaea and Insurgent, obviously but I do. The first two songs “Ferrum” and “key maker” are decent listens. While they did not blow my mind I did find that I remembered the main riffs of those songs after they were done.
But other than that I will say that KoI are really good song writers, even when a song isn’t catchy or memorable it still manages to at the very least be enjoyable when it is listened to. I have no idea how they did it especially with the average length of a song on the album being 6 minutes. I never found a song tedious to listen to. Ever. That’s not an easy thing to do when making songs that are 6-7 minutes long. And the crazy part is even though the general tempo of all the songs on the album is the same, NO TWO SONGS sounded alike. I always knew that I was listening to something different. I think the way the tracks are ordered on the album helped with this.
If you are a fan of rock I think you should give the album a listen, at best it’s a 6 track journey that is longer and richer than some albums that have 10-12 tracks on them. And the song writing is good. At worst…you have an instrumental rock album that is fun to listen to when you reading or doing chores.