(This is TheMadIsraeli’s review of the new 10th album by Swedish stalwarts The Crown, which was released by Metal Blade on March 16th.)
Look at that fucking gorgeous cover art….
The Crown is a band that should be a go-to staple for any true hot-blooded metalhead. The band’s iconic blend of thrash, melodic death, death’n’roll, and straight death metal has been distinctive and, in this writer’s opinion, never really equaled. Johan Lindstrand has one of the most unique bestial voices in metal, the very materialization of a priest turned psychopath, preaching sermons of death and sickness. Marko Tervonen’s riffs feel like getting grenades lobbed at you constantly while you sprint for your life.
I’ve also always felt that over a long stretch of years The Crown have managed to release a pretty consistently baller discography. I don’t think you can classify a single album of theirs as mediocre, or even only “pretty good”. They have set a high standard… but have somehow surmounted it with this latest release.
Cobra Speed Venom is in my estimation the band’s best album since the pinnacle of their career, which I would identify as Possessed 13. It follows much in the same vein as that album as well, displaying a reckless sense of abandon especially in opposition to the more tightly disciplined approach of the band’s last two albums, Doomsday King and Death Is Not Dead. I also find that Cobra Speed Venom has a spirit very similar to Crowned In Terror, in that the band put a lot of emphasis on fist-pumping anthemic melody. The mix between these two versions of The Crown results in what might actually be their best album, period.
The speed in Cobra Speed Venom is a key ingredient. Most of what The Crown felt like writing this time around turns out to be fast-as-fuck loose death thrash, with an emphasis on immediate impact in every song. When the band make exceptions on songs such as “We Avenge!” or “World War Machine”, the results are consistently driving tribal war anthems, of a sort of mid-paced, old school heavy metal variety.
Songs such as opener “Destroyed By Madness”, the title track, and “Rise In Blood” are the meat and potatos of what this album is about, though. Non-stop trem-picking, intricate and speedy thrash rhythms, and old school ’90s melodic death metal refrains define the guitar aspect, with the drums maintaining a steadfast commitment to tried-and-true skank beats, blasts, and excessive double bass, and Johan Lindstrand never sounding better as he loses his sanity for another 40+ minutes.
The production job this time around is also the best mix The Crown have ever had. The guitar tone is meaty, the bass bellows, the drums are thick and earthy, and the whole mix maintains a cavernous yet focused quality that really complements what The Crown do. It is the kind of mix The Crown have always deserved.
Another thing I want to address that I think is a fair question: Are the bonus tracks ESSENTIAL? Does it feel like the album is missing something without them? Kind of a difficult question honestly. “The Sign Of The Scythe” is definitely a finale song. It provides the album with proper closure through a seven-minute hellstorm of melodic death metal might, at blazing speed with some doomy segues, but you can get Cobra Speed Venom with three bonus songs — “Nemesis Diamond”, “The Great Dying”, and “Ride The Fire”.
“Nemesis Diamond” and “Ride The Fire” are solid Crown songs that fit this album just fine, but I definitely think “The Great Dying” is essential, and should have been part of the standard edition of the album. It’s a slow traditional Swedish death metal plodding sea monster of a song that’s something different for the band, and definitely one of the best songs on the album. It does make me wish it were part of the base album rather than denominated a “bonus” (although all the tracks are available on the digital version of the album).
Cobra Speed Venom is the testimony of a band who don’t seem to age, possessed by a flame that only seems to burn ever brighter and fiercer as time passes. This band, like At The Gates showed with At War With Reality and the promising first single off that band’s upcoming To Drink From The Night Itself, have proven that they only intend to improve with age, and only intend to burn down everything around them as their own mortal flames keep scorching on. The best album of March by far, thus far.