Following their hiatus from 1990 to 2004, chasing up 2015’s ‘Death Is Not Dead’ and swinging right back onto the scene with a vengeance since their return in 2009, Sweden’s The Crown are a masterclass powerhouse in how to do death, thrash and melodic death metal all in one. As influential as they are historically, they manage to stay up with the ever-increasing hyper-speed of their proteges.
Let’s not muck about. No need for elegant dalliance around complex metaphors and subtle undertones. This is death/thrash, not a wine tasting tour. The only thing you’ll be drunk for after the completion of this album is blood and more riffs.
A brief cello intro on Destroyed by Madness provides a haunting and deceptive introduction to ‘Cobra Speed Venom’, an album which, by the way, has THE best artwork I’ve seen in years. I mean come on, look at that! Akin to being chased by a monster in ‘Game of Thrones’, the beastly build-up shimmers into a crescendo and then – BLAM. Chunky open chords and rolling drums swell like the wave on the cover, crashing into your chest with heavy double-kick thuds. Punching through this wall is a sawtooth tremolo tone that rips and shreds, forcing the whole band to kick into overdrive to catch up. That classic late-80’s/early-90’s mid-tempo marching stomp slows things down just long enough to catch a breath before furiously ripping into blast-beats and spiralling technical riffs. Lordy, what an opener.
Iron Crown brings out the punk ethos straight off the bat, something we see a fair bit of homage paid to in the album overall. These open ringers then splinter under the attack of pummelling thrash riffs, blasts and even the odd pinch harmonics. Vocals here are the same they are everywhere, a fantastic ode to death metal growls and roars, melodic death shrieks, gruff thrash bellows and even urgent punk-that-got-punched-in-the-guts shouts. ‘THE IRON CROWN’ is repeatedly screamed at us as a slower riff slices into insanely fast shredding, duelling leads and blasts. Then abrupt silence.
A stupidly tight palm-muted and blasting riff kicks In the Name of Death off soon thereafter. More of the punk antics mentioned previously hanging around like skunky crust hipsters. Plenty of up-and-down slides, bass slides and power chords, like Motorhead on crack. A melodic death metal influenced chorus before leads and solos divebomb the rest of the track like it’s Dresden in the early 1940s.
We Avenge! has exactly the gang-chant proclamations you’d expect, although this one picks up the fury even more than the last two. Something I wasn’t expecting from the almost Soulfly-sounding track title. Nothing new to report here, but nothing bad either, just solid walls of buzzsaws, riffs, chords’n’blasts.
Cobra Speed Venom marches proudly into battle with a very Viking Amon Amarth epic lead vibe, accompanied by that infamous tone and some organs humming. Before you get the wrong idea, those punk rock riffs come pounding back under an unearthly-heavy drum and bass combo. The subtleties of the bass in this album can’t be understated – for the most part, they add meat to the riffs but a third, fifth or octave here and there sucker-punches your intestines, too. Urgent leads, blasts, two-hand tapping, tremolo, it’s all just so incredibly metal.
Of course World War Machine not only lets up a tad but also stomps in with marching sounds. Slowing things back up a notch, the vibe here is more death-and-roll, early Entombed with some pared back but gargantuan-sized drum hits. Seriously. I feel of late, bands have sacrificed the groove and the pocket for technicality, but the drums and bass in this album know where to hit, and they hit hard every time. ‘Bow down and hail your king!’ is roared at us multiple times, making me wonder if these guys have been watching a bit too much ‘Game of Thrones’ while recording this.
Refusing to give in, soaked in sweat, the vanguards continue on with Necrohammer, a song as old-school as the title implies. Drum rolls fresh from the bakery of early-80s-Kreator roll out piping hot into a flurry of leads and a simple thrash rhythm, which carries into a really cool bluesy solo, contrasting with the shredding duel guitar histrionics that follow up quite quickly after. Yum.
Rise in Blood delivers Nightrage (or do they deliver The Crown) in epic harmonics, soaring with leads and melodies that are the most palatable on the album. If any song was going to be picked off here by teenyboppers in Children of Bodom shirts (reluctantly and shakily I might add), it’d be this one. Snapping back at those feeble little hands comes an ultra, mega, super-fast palm-muted blasting riff, roaring and growling all the way to the end. Oops. Never mind, kids, stay back.
The final two tracks both convey a similar vein, in that they channel that overdriven but bluesy arpeggiation and chord exploration that you see on The Haunted’s more stripped back work. Low and slow chugs alongside an almost arena-rock rhythm section, with some beautiful soloing before ringing out exactly as it came in. A nice instrumental.
I was joking, by the way. Fortunately, The Sign of the Scythe flicks that brooding pensive feel right off the shoulder like a pest. About a minute in the band rips and tears, nearly flying apart with desperate hammer-ons, more of those punky leads and blasts. Absolutely frantic duel soloing dials back to wash away into a breakdown riff that’d be home on a stoner rock record, ringing out into some very nice leads.
They say old dogs can’t learn new tricks. Maybe, but these dogs have shown they aren’t long in the tooth just yet – there’s more than a glint of malice left in those eyes, accentuated by years of experience and a bloodthirsty hunger that is yet to be sated.
You can purchase your copy of this album here: http://www.metalblade.com/thecrown/