Inspired by fantasy, sci-fi, and (lest they be forgot) the heavy metal greats, Nottingham, UK’s Underking delivers a decidedly epic blend of emotive rock and high-octane traditional metal. A solo act composed of multi-instrumentalist Maxwell Jeffries, Underking is a pure distillation of his myriad of interests.
After the release of Underking’s notably versatile double debut album in early 2020 – the well-received Ghosts of the Past and Amongst the Dead – Jeffries closed out a prolific year by releasing a trilogy of multifaceted singles, each displaying different musical interests and strengths, be it hard-rock balladry, energetic thrash, or unapologetically epic NWOBHM.
Which brings us to the sophomore album, At Hell’s Gate. Due to be released on April 23rd 2021.
Says Jeffries in regard to At Hell’s Gate:
With the new album, I attempted to make it feel as ‘me’ as possible and fully explore the possibilities of making music on my own. It lets me explore a lot of sounds on one project but still sound like myself. It has an instrumental track I’ve wanted to make for a long time, a long ‘epic’ sounding closer, and more ‘big’ choruses than ever. But there’s also some heavier stuff, musically speaking. Overall, I’ve really refined my songwriting process – the lyrics surround topics and stories that I’m passionate about, from sci-fi and fantasy to world events and mental health and the music also reflects where I’m at currently in my career.
There’s some welcome groove to the riffs of Shadow I’ve Become but what we have here as an opener, is a track oozing hard rocking vibes. With the added feeling of grandeur coming from some smooth and rich sounding vocals. It’s a track with jabs of heaviness but plenty of atmosphere too.
That strong start is built upon with something a little more fantastical in the form of the head-banger that is Embrace the Arcane. A track that demands you get your fist in the air and shout the title out loudly.
It’s going to be hard for Underking (can you believe this is a solo project?) to top those two bangers but credit where it’s due, strong attempts are made. World in Flames doesn’t quite hit the highs but does have an absolute beast of a guitar solo in it. It’s up to the thumping kick-ass of energy of Oblivion to step up and show just how epic Underking can be. The guitar work alone here is impressive but the soulful melody and atmosphere just makes this instrumental a shining star.
The vocals are back for Whispering Death where a darker and more sinister tone make for a moodier experience. Call that a cold breather as energy is needed for the fiery speed of the substantial rocker that is Red Sun Rises. Even the more laidback chorus has a ton of bite to it.
The methodical punchiness of the riffs and drum beat makes The Dream Is Over… a slower head-banger but one with groove. Whereas The Nightmare Ends… is a short piece of eerie atmosphere, a chance to collect the thoughts.
Nearing the end of the album, first up is the excellent No Mercy that features some stellar guests who really help make this a groovy sing-along. Easily one of the album’s catchiest efforts and the drum beat just compels the foot to tap and the head to nod along. It’s followed by a killer cover of Misfits’ iconic track, Halloween.
Underking keeping it sounding raw and punkish while also doing the vocals more than justice. A fun way to end a consistently fun album. One where you just have to admire the incredible instrumentation throughout. Filled with bangers, Maxwell Jeffries is a name well worth remembering.
Underking – At Hell’s Gate Full Track Listing:
1. Shadow I’ve Become
2. Embrace the Arcane
3. World in Flames
5. Whispering Death
6. Red Sun Rises
7. The Dream is Over…
8. The Nightmare Ends…
9. No Mercy (feat. Charlotte Corry and Two Eyes Open)
10. Halloween (Bonus Track/Misfits Cover)
Underking - At Hell's Gate (Self Released)
The Final Score - 8/10