Jul 222016



(Andy Synn reviews the new album by Black Crown Initiate from Reading, PA.)

Black Crown Initiate have been something of a favourite of mine (and, if I’m not speaking out of turn here, the majority of the NCS crew in general) for quite some time now and, as such, Selves We Cannot Forgive (released today on eOne), has been sat at the top of my “most anticipated” list for 2016 ever since it was first confirmed.

Thanks to my moonlighting for Terrorizer I’ve been lucky enough to have access to the album for quite a while now, which has allowed me the opportunity to really dig deep into its many layers, as the Pennsylvanian quintet have clearly gone to great lengths to push themselves and their music down an ever-proggier path on their second album.

But… and it’s a surprisingly big but (and I cannot lie)… despite all of its impressively progressive inclinations and some undeniably heroic highlights, it’s hard not to view Selves We Cannot Forgive as the band taking one step backwards for every move forwards they make.


Black Crown Initiate 2016


Selves… is certainly a darker, more elaborate, and more ambitious album than The Wreckage of Stars, make no mistake, and the Reading riffians seem to have made a conscious effort to expand their sound in a manner designed to provide a purposefully less immediate, but altogether deeper, experience for both themselves and for their fans.

In fact, not only is the musicianship as unimpeachably precise and powerful as ever, but a number of these songs – namely the multi-faceted “Belie the Machine”, the spellbinding title-track, and the torrential techgasm of “Matriarch” – see the Prog-Death powerhouse really hitting a new level of complexity and creativity that’s simultaneously as heavy, as melodic, and as technical as anything else you’re likely to hear this year.

Unfortunately, now that I’ve had sufficient time to sit with the album and digest it fully, these changes strike me as something of a double-edged sword, as the band’s ambition occasionally seems to outstrip their execution, resulting in an record which, for all its skilful construction and clear conviction, too often demonstrates a niggling lack of cohesion and an uneven sense of identity.


It’s an impressive sight from a distance, of course – a veritable edifice of deathly power and progressive ambition – but up close you begin to see the joins where the parts have been welded together, their puckered seams lacking the fluidity and finesse to fully disguise their disparate origins.

That doesn’t necessarily make this a bad album, of course. For example, for all that “Sorrowpsalm” seems content to simply and shamelessly amalgamate elements of Tool and The Faceless (and it’s far from the only track that seems a little overly in thrall to Michael Keene and his autotheistic practices), it’s still a heck of a song, even if it does wear its influences a little too boldly for my liking.

But issues like that one do end up making the album feel unexpectedly disjointed, and there are moments where the band’s rush to be more overtly “progressive” finds them tripping over their own feet a little bit, with both the slightly sluggish “For Red Cloud” and the oddly unfocussed “Transmit to Disconnect” (and, to a lesser extent, the otherwise killer “Belie The Machine”) undercut by some rather rough and jarring transitions between sections, as if certain elements had simply been shoved together without adequate consideration for flow or function.


But, despite these criticisms, I don’t want to be overly negative about this album. After all, although it isn’t exactly the game-changer I’d/we’d been hoping for, their second full-length doesn’t see Black Crown Initiate losing any ground either, and I’d rather focus on applauding them for their ambition than admonish them for their imperfections.

Yes, there are times when the band seem to lose track of their own identity a little, and, yes, there are a few too many awkward and/or forgettable moments for comfort (“Again” is a little too stock for my liking, while emotive, but under-developed, closer “Vicious Lives” seems to cut short just as it’s about to peak properly), but there are also some impressive high points here that hint at yet more untapped potential lurking beneath the surface, if only the band can find a way to harness it correctly next time around.

Still, as it stands, and this may not be a particularly popular opinion, Selves We Cannot Forgive is a laudable but flawed attempt at becoming something greater, one which aims high, shoots for the moon, but ultimately falls a little short of its goal.







  1. I am not sure what I think about this. I love their previous work so much, and I know this album will grow on me, but I found myself being very conscious of its runtime. I kept looking down to see if it was almost over.

  2. What I love most about NCS is it shines a light on bands which fall short of the mega machines which market some bands. Entertainment One is one of those machines and they represent Black Crown Initiate. Every metal site in the cosmos is giving attention to this record so why not save your ears and keystrokes for something else released today that doesn’t have a billion-dollar corporate machine marketing it. Fuck. I don’t care how good or bad this album is. Save the attention for something else. I would rather read an article on an ep by a band from Brazil or Iowa or Canada that 7 people have heard of that sucks then piss my time away reading this review. Love the site. Love the contributors. Love spending time here finding obscure extreme bands. Leave reviews for bands like this to the blogs and web sites that love only the money metal marketing brings them. Seriously.

    • Part of me agrees with you. Part of me wants to remain friends with Andy. And part of me is considering having a few glasses of wine with lunch.

    • Hey there buddy, just to let you know that you don’t have any say in what I choose to write about, no-one forced you to click here, read the article, and spew your supercilious bullshit all over the place. If you honestly don’t care how good or bad this album is, then why didn’t you take your own advice and save your time and attention for one of the many other articles we’ve posted today?

      Ultimately this isn’t a zero-sum game, nor does anyone else get to dictate what I review or when. So leave your self-aggrandising superior attitude for somewhere else. Seriously.

      • I have to admit I agree Black Hole. That’s why I believe I’ll be undertaking that as my sort of “job”. I’m not feeling zeal for the major releases with that corporate push as you said. I do feel there is a redundancy, especially with bands who’ve proven themselves to be just straight up excellent regardless of how much time has passed (I for example, love the new Revocation, reviewed it, but admittedly think in terms of the greater conversation concerning metal irrelevant and pointless).

        On the other hand, Andy can write whatever the fuck he wants.

    • Okay, for the record I dont care about Black Crown Initiate, musically theyre the exact opposite of anything Id ever listen to, and Ive definitely been known to bust Andy’s balls for some of the bands he digs

      …but man, the people here write about the shit they like, thats always been the main point of this website. Theres more than enough new music being covered here on a daily basis to keep you happy, you dont need to sweat people who have interests outside of yours

      • This is the most diplomatic approach to your quandary. We often over a ton of music but most of it is actually done without any sort of PR-machine help, especially since most of us don’t have access to the NCS inbox. We write about the things we like, but we also put in extra work to dig up underground bands. I’ve got a text file about twenty bands long based off of whether or not I find the album art interesting that I plan to look into. We’ll cover large releases because we like them and want to talk about them and we cover small ones for the same reason – my personal record had me covering a band that had only three likes on Facebook at the time the review went up. The amount of keystrokes and time we have aren’t limited, because its not like either is a finite resource for us. Just because we chose to write about one thing doesn’t mean we’re disregarding the other, or say if we didn’t write this review we would’ve covered something else. If Andy hadn’t covered this one, I would’ve. We’ve both listened to it a lot and our opinions line up pretty close, though I like it a little more because I think the bands concept is basically Opeth if Akerfeldt had been brought up in the American tech-death/deathcore scene, every disc they’re getting shades and shades closer, just not quite there yet.

        When we write however, we do hope that if you find something you like or see us review something and choose to read it, it’s because you trust our opinion. We try to maintain a very high level of integrity in our reviews and don’t often buy into the hype machine. If it seems like we are, maybe it’s because there is something actually there – not just a ton of PR money that a label spent.

        Long story short: We review what we find great or are enjoying in metal, if it seems like we’re wavering on it we really try to build a case for why and provide context for that opinion.

    • This is, sadly, as close to a Metalsucks and/or Metalinjection post I’ve read on this site. To troll or not to troll? At the risk of feeding one I’ll throw my $.02 in anyhow.

      I for one think the album has hit high marks. It’s climbed way up on my list for the year so far, competing with the Katatonia release as my favorite so far. Although the new Witherscape just arrived….

  3. For what it’s worth, I was looking forward to this review. Honestly, the perspective is refreshing because the album is good, but every other review I have seen just essentially praises it as perfect. It’s not. I visit many metal sites, and this is the only one where I ever comment. NCS does a fantastic job reviewing and premiering the most obscure bands around, but also presenting well executed takes on the well known releases. I see no problem with the format and what gets reviewed. If not interested, or if I disagree, it’s pretty easy just go to to another excellent post.

  4. But Hole just wrote the dumbest fucking post a fan of this site could write.I’m a huge fan of the site but I’m going to bitch about wasting my time reading a review of a Band I don’t like? What in the ever living fuck? People like this grinds my gears so much.You don’t like something then don’t read it and save your shitty opinions for Metalsucks.

    • Right?! One of the reasons I read this site and the comments is because of the lack of negativity. This site has something for everyone when it comes to metal, and an excellent base where people generally seem to be courteous, cool, and kind to one another. I still read Metalsucks, but the comment section there is such a swarm of nonsense, insults and negativity. What’s the point? We’re all metalheads with different tastes and opinions, but overall, we’re on the same team. There’s so much content on this site updated daily. If one doesn’t like a certain band/post, keep scrolling.

  5. Way too much clean singing for my tastes but the musicianship is amazing, very impressive 🙂

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