Persian Risk - Once a King

Persian Risk
Once a King
Carl Sentence
From the days of my youth, the very striking imagery of Persian Risk’s iconic “Rise Up” album struck me as something special. Once I had a turntable and I spent my pocket money on the rather exotic and hard to get by album in the early 90s I have to say it was a bit more mellow than the “Iron Maiden’s” of the day, but heck, still a very enjoyable affair and when the band, decided to metal on, ie on Dark Tower, etc… it Rawked, alight! A few years later, I got a hold of the “High Vaultage” CD, edition and for a while, the band seemed to be – a lost cause – well a dead and buried affair. Little did I, or most of us (without the advent of the Internet) knew, that the chap that was behind the microphone, was alive and well and apparently singing, on a number of different projects, including a number of offshoot bands that included some basic ex members of Black Sabbath and UFO, at times. He also joined Swiss platinum rockers for a solid, but underappreciated album, that sort of held them together, while they were going through the motions waiting for Marc Storace to return to the fold. So he has been anything but, retired, all these years.
At any rate, the KIT festival and those NWOBHM, reunion “get together” shows, that Neat’s former boss and original “Tygers” vocalist, Jess Cox has been putting together, meant that last year I gotta experience Mr Sentence, first hand delivering “Riding High” backed up by Roxcalibur that crazy NWOBHM German tribute band amongst other things and I was floored by how well he had maintained his voice. Not only that, but at some point, when I was asking about what he was going to do, in the future, knowing that he was doing vocals on the solo releases of Don Airey, Carl responded that he was actually, preparing a sort of “second coming” of Persian Risk, with all the demos of the original band finished and produced properly and some songs in the same vein, based on ideas that were kicking around at the time or new ones, but in the same head-space more or less also done to sort of make up a full album of songs. It took him probably an extra few months, that he expected, but even if it took him a full year it wouldn’t have mattered, because the results are simply astonishing!
Carl allegedly tried to get the old band together, for this album, but there wasn't enough interest at the time, even though, a 2014 billing “full band” performance for KIT, seems to suggest that it might happen with “the album” line-up, so who knows?! The performers on “Once a king” however are some friends and collaborators of Carl’s from his solo works and tours, obviously Don Airey of too numerous bands to mention here… fame (keys) and Chris Childs of Thunder fame (bass) played on “Mind Doctor” Carl’s solo effort and well have been on the Don solo efforts too, sharing duties on some songs with (Tom Jones, Jamiroquai’s) Alex Meadows and then there would be D. Willson, from M.T’s. Wishbone Ash on guitars along with Howie G who I can’t say I am familiar with. (initially I had him confused with Howie Simon and that gave me a bit of a “huh” moment. Geographically that’s a bit challenged and challenging! But who knows! It ended up that it wasn’t him after all). The Drumming duties are handled by one Tim Brown a professional tutor and touring drummer that has done work with Carl before, but also seems to have worked with other rock names like Kee Marcello and Alanah Myles as well.
But all of these things would be immaterial, if “Once a king” was boring. And it is anything BUT!
“Once a king” is deliciously RETRO, it’s actually BIZARRE! I know the word I chose to describe it is not the best possible, but it sounds too damn WELL produced to be SO RETRO, that’s what sort of got me, scratching my head. I was sort of half expecting it to sound SHITTIER?! Haha! Can you believe it?!
Imagine a prime time 80s album by say a big name of the era like the Tygers if it were recorded TODAY afforded all the advents of technology – but maintaining all the character and a lot of the richness and the dynamic range that some of those recordings had.
Actually, for better or worse “this” collection of songs is more “metal” when compared to “Rise Up” and might actually appease more the NWOBHM afficionado’s! Carl’s been very smart in taking heed of what his fans wanted of “him”/the band and he seems to aim to please. And he delivers!
“Asylum” is a fast and relentless, proto metal tune, with a chugging bass, and a lovely simple as hell but insanely catchy riff. Given also a charming vocal line and a chorus about breaking away from an asylum (allegedly inside one’s brain – so someone’s going insane ey?), you have a very typical NWOBHM theme and a most excellent rocking tune to begin the CD with!
Up next the classic “Riding High” form the 7” gets a remake! Everything is pretty much as you knew it and it's a pretty scorching, gorgeous, catchy as hell tune!
“Killer”, which could easily win a contest for a cliché title in metal songs titles, is a KILLER song! You can easily imagine the rest and fill the blanks yourselves. It’s fast, it’s furious, and all, it’s a bit nightmarish, but it’s chorus is paradoxically melodic, to my ears it was something like the bastard child of Ostrogoth and Tokyo Blade in a back alley somewhere, hehe!
“Once a King” supposedly, comes from some old demoed idea and it’s slower and more majestic, more epic with luscious backing vocals and I suppose to bring it in line with the more current material, the song has been given an extra layer of metallization that I don’t know if it’s 100 % fitting. It’s hasn’t like destroyed the song, by any means, but it really sounds a like some guitars “have been forced” on a couple of sections overloading it a bit. A nice song, no matter what. A more stripped version, of it, would allow the elegy of its theme to shine through, though.
“Soul Deceiver” is another more of a rock n metal type of tune, that had the type of licks that brought to mind initially Riot, before it switched to acoustic and back again. It’s a simple and beautiful tune with a strong hook. An electrostatic, “outlaw” of sorts!
“Battlecry” resumes with the metal – style, in a very epic and defiant style with a heroic series of minor guitar histrionics! And it just, hits the bulls-eye! If there was ever a battle for metal and I’m talking metal - (I consider Amon Amarth ok, but I can live without dolls, special editions, Odin’s condom’s etc. J and you know, too many Swedish chicks like them and not us and that has got to change. So death to facial hair metal!) so yeah – if real metal heads ever heard this rousing Saxon-esque paean I don’t know what the funk they would not like?! CS, just shows his worldwide class, obviously being a singer from THAT generation, but one of the few that has made it to THIS generation with his voice, virtually, intact.
“Spirit in My Dreams” would first and foremost, possibly have Dio era Sabbath seeking some monetary compensation, for the fact that it sort of pays tribute to “Neon Knights” too closely for comfort. Otherwise, it’s grandiose with Carl, sounding like a mix of Dio and Glen Hughes which hey isn’t exactly an easy thing to do and I guess it’s quite a compliment!
“Ride the Storm” is what “Once a King” should have used as a blueprint it’s a melancholic grandiose composition, with Carl showing a really different aspect of his talents. Still I think there could have been even more “stripping” down of these compositions to pure acoustic arrangements and it might be a nice idea to use those as bonuses in a future effort.
“Fist of Fury” is another very typical NWOBHM styled track and it rocks like hell. If it were released back in the day it would have been quite the hit, I guess, maybe with a more loose production. The only thing I’m not in agreement with here, is that this one should sound quite uncontrollable and it doesn’t! But god, does it rock or what!?
Then there’s “Women and Rock” that people would be familiar with from “Rise Up” also given a remake. Like “Riding High”, well, the urgency of the original performance well is not there but also the limitations of the young “Carl” who could barely hold the note or control his voice, are also gone. Cause the 2012 Carl Sentence can actually sing the songs, while the back then version of Carl, probably did it, not by accident necessarily – but you know, just because he could, however well he could (at one point it cost him losing his voice).
Finally “Wasteland” is a sort of an uplifting tune, with a very you “drifter” type of theme, that’s way not too atypical for NWOBHM related artists and such, but this time it’s also more “romantic” as well. Ah, Carlos you old horndog. Well it’s also a good track so who am I to complain, although, this last paragraph was verging on whining a bit!
All in all, “Once a King” @#$@#$@# “Blew me away” I sort of like the Don Airey stuff, that Carl was involved with and his solo stuff, but I didn’t know what to expect of this, and this in a way, was so much better than I ever expected and it came rather un-expectedly, that it sort of, caught me off-guard! So in order to avoid running the high risk of “not rocking” I suggest that you head most urgently to or to and buy yourselves a copy of this, or look locally if you got a local record shop still around that doesn’t suck. Or buy one. Don’t download this illegally – don’t be a C@N^! You know you don’t want to be one!?? Do you?