Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Sir Lord Baltimore - Kingdom Come

Sir Lord Baltimore was a New York heavy metal power trio led by singing drummer John Garner and including guitarist Louis Dambra and bassist Gary Justin. Formed in 1968, their debut album, Kingdom Come, was engineered by the legendary Eddie Kramer (Hendrix,Kiss,etc) and released in early 1970, garnering critical acclaim and plenty of live action. Unfortunately, the band was short lived, though they have reformed for new gigs recently.

With a grungey sound reminiscent of early Grand Funk Railroad, the band opens with the riff-rocker, “Master Heartache”. Dambra riffs non-stop throughout this one and shows off a cool, original style. Garner has a deep, soulful voice and is not afraid of shrieking to get his point across! Justin locks in and gives a solid footing to the rest of the semi-chaos!

Moving even faster in “Hard Rain Fallin’”, this sounds almost like Ted Nugent in his early 70’s glory days (before he became an ultra-right-wing shill). This is downright manic, with the guitar and drums playing off of each other and John producing plenty of heavy metal screams. Staccato chords and mind-number guitar flurries highlight “Lady of Fire”, which moves at light speed and doesn’t let up for a second!

For a change of pace, they break out a harpsichord for “Lake Isle of Innersfree” which sounds almost like a heavy metal ballad parody. A little too self-consciously serious and not as successful as the other tunes. Dambra sounds like he can’t wait to be let loose again on “Pumped Up” and he again goes crazy right from the start. Apparently, he doesn’t want to be constrained by simple chords and is so frantic that at one point the band just stops and lets him go before pouncing back in!

The title track is a little more of a mid-tempo rocker, with plenty of licks working around the melody and a deep vocal style and lyrics that sounds almost worthy of Spinal Tap or Judas Priest. But, isn’t heavy metal supposed to be overly-serious? Another pounding riffer, again similar to GFRR in sound and feel, is “I Got a Woman”.

Taking a cue from Robert Johnson, they declare that their woman is a “Hell Hound” with some funky, Robin Trower-esque rhythms and tones and tons of shrieking solos. Again, the vocal stylings remind me of vintage Nugent, as well. I have no idea what the title “Helium Head (I Got a Love)” is supposed to mean, but this follows suit in their band idiom, though I swear the progression is stolen from something that is slipping my mind at this time. Garner gets to thrash his drums wildly in this one, as well.

Finishing with “Ain’t Got Hung on You” (I guess grammar wasn’t their strong point!), a super fast and slightly funky rocker that sounds like the band is moving in double time for the whole song! This is one of their most concise numbers and a great ending!

This might be a little excessive for some – yes, the lead guitar is constant and the vocals are a little over the top – but this is still quite rockin’ and a good example of the cross over from 60’s garage to heavy metal to punk. Not for everyone but if you’re not afraid of a little excess, check it out!