If your only exposure to Japanese metal includes Loudness, Concerto Moon or Double Dealer, you'll be happy to know that King of Darkness puts those other bands to shame. One of the heaviest titles on Finland's Lion Music roster, Triple Whammy is a debut worthy of its title, as this trio combines old-school head-banging music with equal dashes of power metal and progressive rock. Despite some bizarre song titles (to wit: "Place Liberty" and "None of Your Cheeks!"), all of the lyrics are sung in broken English by singer/bassist Genta Nakamura without a heavy accent. A slightly muddied mix, however, makes many of the vocals unintelligible anyway.
Although Triple Whammy opens with the rather average and generic "Feel the Fire," track two, "Strange Neighborhood," stands out with curly licks and a catchy arena-rock chorus. "Place Liberty" begins with a distorted vocal and a chunky King's X guitar courtesy of Takahiro Hashimoto. Then the chorus takes off with Ty Tabor-like beauty. Fragments of Queensryche at that band's commercial peak also appear throughout the song. "Long Way" is the album's lone ballad, but it's neither overwrought nor fluffy, and "Terminal Condition" is the best song Yngwie Malmsteen never wrote. The funky instrumental title track opens with a quirky bass line, segues into a drum solo and just explodes from there.
The second half of this 10-track album, while still decent, doesn't contain as many memorable tunes as the first half, and all of the stuff on Triple Whammy has been done before. For proof, just listen to the classic Judas Priest riff on "Road to Madness." But when solid music is executed with finesse and an obvious appreciation for the craft of making metal, there's no need to turn it off.