Madking Ludwig - Madking Ludwig - 2005 - Gaia Disk Records
1. Grains of Sand 2. Green Giant 3. Firefly 4. Awake Again 5. Spinwheel 6. Tumbleweed 7. Aqaba 8. Double Barrel 9. Walls of Kerak
It was only a matter of time before poor Ludwig II of Bavaria was chosen by some opportunistic historians as the name for a band. The 19th century king is in modern times most well-known for his eccentric behavior, but he was also a tremendous patron of the arts (a devotee of Wagner) and is responsible for the construction of Neuschwanstein Castle, one of Germany’s finest feats of architecture.
Madking Ludwig (Madking as one word) is the name of the band that has taken after him, and, as it happens, they actually exhibit very few of his characteristics. Rather than theatrical fairyland majesty, this Canadian group is instead slapped with the tag of stoner metal, ostensibly for their fuzzed-out riffs and rock’n’roll spirit. While this is legitimate in part, Madking Ludwig are ultimately complex enough to turn most classification efforts on their heads; beyond those rolling, sludgy riffs are dual male/female vocals, frequent woodwind appearances, refined percussion, unfettered song structures, and enough other embellishments to leave Madking better classified as Southern-styled prog rock from up North. Upside down, indeed.
Stéphane, the band’s lead vocalist (and flutist and clarinetist), has a bold but unpolished voice in a relatively high register, redolent of any number of recently successful hard rock bands (Wolfmother, Priestess, Black Stone Cherry, Early Man, etc.). At other times, the music takes a more punky vibe and his voice sounds more similar to The Offspring’s Dexter Holland. It is generally a good fit for Madking Ludwig’s style, as are the accompaniments from Sophie, but at times they carry on too long and beneath their keening the music doesn’t have enough room to breathe.
Primarily, though, the genre toss-up does work well. Stéphane’s very accomplished flute-work marks some of the album’s high points. ‘Aqaba’, for example, may not feature Madking’s best vocal work, but its lush instrumental section more than redeems it, and the aptly-titled ‘Double Barrel’ that follows kicks the rock groove back on to full.
Madking Ludwig may be far from the “eternal mystery” that their namesake strove to be, but this self-titled release is still a fairly enjoyable refresher. It may also exhibit more mediocrity than one would like to see in a band with their history together (and from an album that had ten years to germinate), but it is their debut record, all in all, and for this quirky quintet things could have gone far worse.
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