(Andy Synn reviews the forthcoming eighth studio album by Sweden’s The Crown.)
Don’t call it a comeback! Call it… actually, I don’t know quite what to call it. After all, it’s been quite a while (over four years, in fact) since The Crown released their original “comeback” album, Doomsday King, with new vocalist Jonas Stålhammar at the helm, and now they’re back again, with a new album and yet another shift in the line-up, as original guitarist Marcus Sunesson and original drummer Janne Saarenpää both departed the band before the new album was recorded.
Not only that, but Death Is Not Dead sees original vocalist Johann Lindstrand returning to the fold for the second time… replacing Stålhammar, who replaced him, after he replaced Lindberg, who replaced him originally… (confused yet?)
So, does this make Death Is not Dead the band’s real comeback album? I don’t know. But I do know that it means more of The Crown for me to salivate over. And that’s never a bad thing.
photo by Patrik Skoglöw
Following the moody slow-burn of instrumental introduction “Reign”, the first half of the album plants its flag firmly and proudly with the jagged thrash-edged riffage of “Headhunter”, which positively pulses with raw energy and aggression, providing an immediate stand-out track on an album with few (if any) weak points.
Although “Headhunter” sits seamlessly along the scything riffs and dark melodies of “Iblis Bane” and the storming Death Metal cavalcade of “Struck By Lightning” – as well as an unexpected, and pleasingly chug-heavy cover of “Eternal” by Paradise Lost (from the album Gothic, fact fans) – it’s not until the second half that the real magic starts to happen.
Beginning with the manic aggression of “Speed Kills” – the first in a series of stand-out numbers, all punchy, chugging riffs, fret-board melting solo work and ravenous vocal hooks – the second half of the album hits you again and again with a bruising flurry of songs which see the band operating at 100% murderous efficiency.
Lindstrand’s ragged snarl – often imitated, never bettered – is as utterly pissed off and vituperative as ever, although noticeably raspier this time around, and whether during the bone-grinding, hell-for-leather assault of “Herd of Swine” – which mixes dissonant Death Metal disharmony with a touch of Slayerized melodic menace – or the neck-snapping riffs, addictive melody lines, and savage butcher-hooks of “Horrid Ways”, he continues to spit bile and fury like few others can.
“Ride to Ruin” is another high-octane barn-burner of a song which can go toe-to-toe with anything the band have previously produced, all furious, galloping grooves and venomous riffs which build to a thrilling, multi-layered melodic climax of spiralling solos and swirling lead patterns. That leads into the powerfully emotive instrumental interlude (all 5:44 of it) of “Meduseld”, which allows a moment’s breather before the devastating finale of “Godeater” makes its presence known.
A remorseless crusher of a song, with a brutally infectious chorus refrain, its unforgiving Deathly stomp and gut-wrenching rumble ends the album on a titanic note – one which positively demands you hit the “replay” button immediately.
So, to sum things up… no, it’s not quite Deathrace King or Crowned Unholy (pick your poison)… but it’s still The Crown, goddammit! Most bands would kill their own grandmothers for even the weakest songs on this album!
And, hell, when these guys are on fire, as they are for pretty much the entire second half of Death Is Not Dead, they are absolutely untouchable.
Welcome back boys. Try not to keep us waiting so long next time though, ok?
Death Is Not Dead will be released on January 13 by Century Media and is available for order at CMDistro.com. Listen to two tracks below.