I’m a Pretty Maids fan. A huge one. Ever since the first time I saw their video for “Back To Back” (Red Hot And Heavy, 1984) back in 1985, Pretty Maids have been one of my absolute favourite bands and to this day, it is my opinion that they have never released an album worse than good. Back in 1987, when they released their second – and probably most loved – album Future World, I wasn’t the only one who truly believed that that album would be their final step to stardom, but for reasons unknown, that never happened. It would take them three years to finally release their third album Jump The Gun (1990) but despite some frequent touring and an album that wasn’t only brilliant, but also had a sound of the times, things refused to lift for the band. After three brilliant albums, the band should have been huge but instead Pretty Maids were the proof of that talent just isn’t enough and that the timing and luck just wasn’t there for them. When the harder and edgier Sin Decade showed up in 1992, melodic hard rock and metal were on their way down and grunge had started to take its place – great musicians and killer melodies had been replaced by depression and gloom. But Pretty Maids never gave up and kept on releasing albums throughout the grunge and nu-metal laden 90’s just like that crap never happened and despite the fact that many of their fans didn’t even knew the band still existed, they released some effing amazing records – like Scream (1994), Spooked (1997) (my personal favorite), Anything Worth Doing Is Worth Overdoing (1999) and Carpe Diem (2000) – in those days.
The band slipped a bit with Planet Panic (2002), their only record that’s not great, only good, but with their 2005 record Wake Up To The Real World, Pretty Maids showed that they were on their way back up and not only musically, but also that they got more attention from both media and fans than they have gotten during the whole 90’s. But things would change again – and this time for the better. Pretty Maids released Pandemonium in 2010 and with that album they didn’t only gain some new fans, many of their older fans suddenly got themselves a new favorite Pretty Maids record, something that hadn’t happened since the release of Future World. The quality of that record, both song wise and production wise, is so high it’s ridiculous and since then, Pretty Maids has grown bigger and bigger and today the band is bigger than they have ever been. The follow-up Motherland (2013) turned out to be a real knock-out and with Louder Than Ever (2014) – an album full of re-recordings of their 90’s songs (plus two new ones) – they gave their fans a chance to see what they had missed during those days. When Pretty Maids now is about to release their 15th studio album, I really don’t expect anything but greatness from the guys – Ronnie Atkins – vocals, Ken Hammer – guitars, Rene Shades – bass, Allan Tschicaja – drums and keyboarder Chris Laney (who joined the band after the recording of this album). My – and I guess many other fans of the band – high expectations on the band could also be an Achilles’ heel for the band because if they release an album that is just “good” again, it will feel like a major failure, especially after the last two albums of newly written material. So it’s with a great deal of both hope and nervousness that I cross my fingers and push play when it’s time to give this album my first spin.
Opener “When God Took A Day Off” wipes all worries right off the map and leaves me with a big smile on my face. The song is slightly softer than the usual Pretty Maids opening track – the verses are a bit more laid back, but the tune hardens in both the bridge and the chorus. Especially the chorus hits right where it should – it’s a brilliant and memorable hard rocker, exactly the kind I had hoped for. The title track is a real jawbreaker, a heavy hard rocker that borders to metal with an insanely catchy chorus that doesn’t leave us in wait for the punchline – the song is so brilliant it hurts. First single “Face The World” might be a too obvious single choice. It’s an uptempo pop-metal track, on the border to a ballad, that sports an amazing melody and a chorus with more hooks than you could find on a fishing boat. No metal band writes a pop song like Pretty Maids and if there was any justice in the world, this one should have been an enormous hit – it’s just magnificent. They go heavy and dark with “Humanize Me”, a metal stomper that is a punch in the face but it still has a refrain that could move mountains and sticks right off the bat. Again, this is so awesome it’s stupendous. “Last Beauty On Earth” is another one of those amazing Pretty Maids uptempo ballads and this one’s main melody is just to die for – plus, the chorus is so damn addictive you need rehab to get rid of it, not that you’d want to. Pure brilliance that one, I tell you.
“Bull’s Eye” is another pop tune in a fine mix with both heavy metal and hard rock and quite frankly, the title says it all – it really hits bull’s-eye – and for the 6th time on this record, the chorus is illegally good. “King Of Right Here And Now” is a hard-hitting heavy rock song that touches metal. It’s in your face, on your case and it will punch you down for the count if you don’t surrender – which you will. It’s very direct but it doesn’t have the catchy refrain like the other tracks has. But that doesn’t mean it’s bad because it’s not – it’s bloody awesome! “Heaven’s Little Devil” is a melodic hard rocker with a prominent pop feel and a refrain that’s so catchy it’s improbable. “Civilized Monsters” is a big, fat punch in the gut to all the (I reckon) jihad warriors and ISIS lunatics around the world. Musically, it’s a hard and aggressive tune but with an extremely memorable and punchy refrain and the contrast is nothing but excellent. “Sickening” is an angry, hard and ballsy gut-puncher of a song that hits you right between the eyes. But the chugging guitar and the thunderous drums marries brilliantly with the dazzling melody and the captivating chorus. They close the album with the least hitty and the most aggressive tune on the album. It’s called “Was That What You Wanted” and it hits with angst and vigour but it also contains a conspicuously good melody. It’s a song that only makes me want to put this album on repeat for the rest of the day.
I must say I’m both impressed and flabbergasted after I have listened to this album. I just don’t get how Messrs Atkins and Hammer manages to write these fucking amazing songs album after another without failing even once. I mean, sure, I don’t love every Pretty Maids song ever written, but if I have to find any really bad ones, I have to look really damn hard (I must admit that I’m not that fond of their debut self titled E.P.). As an album this album is without a doubt one of their heaviest to date, but on the other hand, there’s no other Pretty Maids album around that have so many astonishingly catchy and memorable choruses on it. Their usual deal is more than often that a song is either heavy, hard and brutal or a very pop laden rock song, but on here, even the heavy songs comes with remarkably strong and memorable melodies. But lyrically, this a very dark and political record that alludes to a lot of the despicable (religious) organizations that are threats to our society and our politicians’ reluctance to do something about it – religion, war and corruption and a ramshackle world. So don’t expect no “let’s go party” or “boy meets girl” songs on this record folks. I know people will disagree with me about what I’m about to write here, but this is how I feel: Kingmaker is Pretty Maids’ best album to date, it’s the first album where I do love every damn song and where the whole album is my favorite. The fact that, to me, this is the album of the year and no other record by any other band is even close kinda goes without saying. So there you have it. All you have to do now is to buy shitloads of copies of this record and finally make Pretty Maids the mega arena act they deserve to be. Like now!
Photo by Tallee Savage
Photo editing by Mattias Savage Wilmenius
Other Pretty Maids reviews:
1. When God Took A Day Off
3. Face The World
4. Humanize Me
5. Last Beauty On Earth
6. Bull’s Eye
7. King Of The Right Here And Now
8. Heaven’s Little Devil
9. Civilized Monsters
11. Was That What You Wanted