Northern Kings is a symphonic heavy metal group formed in 2007 by four Finnish charismatic heavy metal “kings”: J. Ahola, Marco Hietala (Nightwish, Tarot), Tony Kakko (Sonata Arctica) and JP Leppäluoto (Charon). The combination of four outstanding vocalists, each with their own unique charm and personalised style of vocals, and a group of extremely talented musicians along with a full symphony orchestra can only result in a sweet listening experience.
Northern Kings has proved cover albums can indeed be different and interesting if the group exhibits the assertiveness and creativeness to do something exceptional. They have succeeded in boldly reshaping and successfully turning classic hits into completely new and exciting metal versions.
The concept for Northern Kings began to slowly evolve during the Raskasta Joulua recordings and associated gigs. Somewhere around the early spring of 2007, the idea took on the form of reality. J., in collaboration with Marco Hietala, Tony Kakko, JP Leppäluoto and members of their respective bands, decided to unite forces under the name Northern Kings and approach cover songs from a new perspective. The idea was to turn things totally upside down and incorporate a heavier, symphonic sound to 80’s pop songs.
The members of Northern Kings, appropriately crowned as The King of High Notes (J. Ahola), The King of the Kings (Marco Hietala), The King of Catchy Melody Lines (Tony Kakko) and The King of Mystique (JP Leppäluoto) continue to expand their domain, attracting new fans from around the world into their kingdom.
Northern Kings’ debut album, Reborn, was released on October 31st 2007 and it sold gold in Finland. The gold records were presented to the Kings after their first live performance, which was at the Radio Rock Finlandia gala on December 2007.
Two singles were released off of the album: We Don’t Need Another Hero and Hello. The album has since been released in the United Kingdom, portions of Europe and Japan (2008).
J.’s contributions to the album were: Lionel Richie’s Hello, which he turned into an up-tempo metal rocker without losing the sensitivity of the original recording; Cutting Crew’s I Just Died In Your Arms Tonight, which became a slow, fragile and towards the end of the song, pretty massive piece with a different rhythmic time (6/8); and Electric Light Orchestra’s Don’t Bring Me Down, which changed into a faster rockier piece with a special C-part integrating one of J.’s favourite ELO songs, Time.
Rethroned, Northern Kings’ sequel to the Reborn album, was released on November 19th 2008. For this album the guys worked much closer together, combining their distinctive voices and styles and thus, achieving a more unified presentation of the songs on the album. The second album has a stronger, rockier sound and includes classic hits not only from the 80’s, but from other decades as well.
J., Marco, Tony and JP each sing the lead vocals in one song on the Rethroned album. J.’s contribution is the song My Way, with lyrics written by Paul Anka and originally made popular by Frank Sinatra. In addition, J. and Marco perform Thin Lizzy’s Róisin Dubh (Black Rose): A Rock Legend as a duet, and the opening song, Training Montage, is an instrumental piece with Erkka Korhonen on lead guitar. The remainder of the songs on the album features all four vocalists.
Besides performing two years in a row at the Radio Rock Finlandia gala, the Northern Kings were able to synchronize their busy schedules and play two full-length gigs. Their first gig was at Tavastia Klubi in Helsinki in the early autumn of 2010, and it was quickly followed by a gig in the Satama Open Air festival in Kemi.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t been possible to arrange any more gigs since then due to the King’s other commitments, but in some occasions it’s been possible to see them together on stage at Raskasta Joulua shows.
In 2010, the Northern Kings were asked to do a version of Finland’s 1977 Eurovision Song Contest entry song Lapponia, originally perfomed by Monica Asperlund, and then it was released as a single on August 25th of the same year.
When it comes to recording a new album, there have been no talks about it lately, but that doesn’t exclude the possibility of doing it someday. Time will tell! For the moment, the last thing recorded by the Northern Kings is the song Pieni Rumpali, which is part of the 2013 Raskasta Joulua album.