Crowned In Terror
he years since 1999 have seen a proliferation of heavy bands tormenting themselves to become deed-holders of a new metallic hybrid, or at the very least, completely indescribable. Genre-slaughtering groups abound -- Oxbow, Converge, The End, Burnt By the Sun, Candiria -- and many are finding audiences in this post-Dillinger Escape Plan world of ours. It is no mystery why these groups and their blends of death, grind, hardcore, punk, noise and jazz are becoming more popular while the number of metal enthusiasts remains fairly constant: they don’t sound like metal. These bands, as exciting as they are and as revolutionary as most people consider them to be, do not bring to mind thoughts of leather, spikes and Satan, and by blazing trails that refuse traditional metal’s sound and mentality, they attract fans of the distorted, fans of the original, even fans of the avant-garde, but rarely do they appeal to people who just love metal , that blazing, hellfire-forged inspirer of long-hair, fist-pumping and head-banging. Who will rock the traditionalists, the people who stood innocent and helpless as Slayer and Carcass defiled them? Make way for the Crown.
The Crown has always been an excellent melodic death metal act, but with Crowned in Terror , they join the merciless, and similarly excellent, Cadaver Inc. as kings of the new breed of blasting, scorching thrash bands. This is thrash the way it was meant to be played -- unimaginably fast but precise, violent but permitting melody, evil but rarely stupid -- only it has been created in a world that is no longer solely defined as post- Reign In Blood , it is also post- Legion (Deicide), post- Heartwork (Carcass), post- In the Nightside Eclipse (Emperor) and post- Slaughter of the Soul (At the Gates, whose former vocalist, Tomas Lindberg, now sings for The Crown). Historically, thrash acquiesced to the extremities of death and black metal, but that doesn’t mean the three genres are mutually exclusive. Crowned In Terror is proof of this, smelting the finest elements of thrash, death and black metal and ruthlessly pouring the molten result down your throat.
The onslaught begins after a brief, keyboard heavy introduction. “Crowned In Terror” no less than explodes with frightening speed and intensity. Armed with robotic blast beats, urgent, necessary guitar pyrotechnics and Lindberg’s ungodly, but finally perfected shriek, “Crowned In Terror” sets a ridiculously high standard for the rest of the album, a standard that is maintained almost unfailingly. “Under the Whip”, a grinding, demented trample, actually ups the ante for darkness and velocity before unleashing a lovely, searing chorus. “Drugged Unholy” and “Satanist” are holdovers from The Crown’s death’n’roll past, fitting Zeke- and Speedealer-worthy metallic punk riffs overtop more grinding blasts. “Out For Blood”, “(I Am) Hell” and “Death is the Hunter” form a malicious trio: dizzying battering ram, militaristic boot-fucking and melodic stampede, respectively.
It’s amazing how much power those melodic moments provide. Amongst the blast beats, the throaty screeching and the cauterizing guitars are decreased tempos, truly memorable hooks, anthemic choruses and harmonized guitars. In the strongest examples (the rapid hammer-ons of “Under the Whip”, the title track’s chorus, the guitar layering in “Out For Blood”), these devices provide near transcendent, emotional pastiches. In other instances (the guitar solos of “World Below”, the Priest-ly moments of “The Speed of Darkness”), they can seem almost cheesy. But rather than irritate, those cheesy moments attest to another one of the Crown’s strongest attributes -- a total disregard for self-consciousness. As a twenty-four year old who developed unhealthy ties to 1990’s indie rock, nothing is more refreshing and novel to me now than a band devoid of pretension clearly having a blast. The Crown is one of those bands. Few groups in 2002 would name a song “Death Metal Holocaust” or pour so much venom into lines like “born to diiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiie ”, but few bands in 2002, metal or otherwise, have managed to forge an album this solid.
Crowned In Terror will more likely than not be the metal album of the year, not because it is shockingly original, not because it is the blueprint for a fresh bastardization, but because it’s excellent through and through. That, to me, is revolutionary.
Reviewed by: Clay Jarvis
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01