(Andy Synn reviews the latest album by French metal band Svart Crown, which is out now via Listenable Records.)
“Heavy” is one of those recurring words we all like to use when talking about metal. It brings with it connotations of thunderous power and crushing force. Beyond this it can be used to suggest the sheer density of an album’s ominous atmosphere, or the bruising emotional weight it carries.
Sometimes it’s misused. Something simply being loud or well-produced is not the same as being really heavy – or at least, it’s nowhere near the same realms I’m talking about here. I can’t help but smile when I see others refer to certain albums as “really heavy” – whether they’re talking about the current big thing in metal, or even waxing lyrical on the supposed substance of the latest indie darlings – because I sometimes think we’re not even using the same yardstick to measure by.
Let me tell you one thing though, Profane, Svart Crown’s third album, is heavy. Very fucking heavy.
For those unfamiliar with the group, their sound can loosely be described like the unholy offspring of Gojira’s devastating leviathan grooves and Deathspell Omega’s slithering, venomous dissonance. Fitting, given the beautiful, yet horrible cover art that adorns the album.
For the more initiated among you, let me say that this album is an impressive step up from Witnessing The Fall, and stands firmly as an ironic high-point in the band’s steadfast descent into madness.
From the moment that “Manifestatio Symptoms” lurches to life with its back-breaking kick-drum rolls and viscous, oily tremolo riffs, the album simply doesn’t let up. “Genesis Architect” is a twisted hybrid of contorted rhythms, virally infectious riffs. and flesh-rending hooks, while “Intern. Virus. Human” is a blasterpiece of sickening aural violence whose phenomenal, undeniable chorus refrain is a melding of pneumatic, pounding riffage and a hypnotic (and horrific) vocal mantra.
The baleful opening bars of “In Utero: A Place Of Hatred and Threat” soon give way to a frantic apocalypse of feverish, dissonant guitar lines and bone-grinding drum work, with a bleak melodic poison bleeding through the cracks in the song’s angular, abrasive structure.
“Until The Last Breath” is a colossal, doom-laden funeral procession whose crippling death throes are a firestorm of sheer sonic agony. This is followed by the album’s title-track “Profane”, an ectopic abortion of choking bile and neck-snapping metallic mayhem, tainted by a diseased undercurrent of subtle (dis)harmony.
The blistering savagery of “The Therapy of Flesh” is a brutal shock to the system, its suppurating guitars and megaton drumming detonating a viral load of mind-fracturing corruption without a hint of mercy or humanity. Its bleak and ugly mid-section will no doubt appeal to fans of Ulcerate, and grants the whole song an air of abhorrent foulness which simply cannot be washed clean.
The creeping exsanguination of instrumental track “Venomous Ritual” is balanced by the utterly murderous “Ascetic Purification”, a tornado of scything shrapnel and feverish dissonance which leads seamlessly into the monstrosity of “Revelation: Down Here Stillborn”. A plague of rampaging drums and parasitic guitar hooks, it envelops its convulsive, involuntary rhythms and retching, bestial vocals in a miasma of blighted anti-melody that only serves to enhance its rapturous evil.
There is nothing pure, or pleasant, about this album. It defiles and desecrates, demolishes and devastates, dancing on the edge of chaos without ever sliding into meaningless anarchy.
For all its brutal, uncompromising heaviness and savage intensity, it possesses a gleam of predatory, demonic, intelligence that focuses its unrepentant nihilism into something even more powerful.
A truly vile and venomous assault on the senses.
Profane is available on Bandcamp and can be streamed in full below.