ALBUM REVIEW: Black Crown Initiate – Violent Portraits Of Doomed Escape
The saying goes “all good things comes to those who wait”, and that particular expression has never seemed more appropriate than when it comes to Black Crown Initiate. Since their formation in 2012, the band have released two extraordinary progressive death metal albums in the form of The Wreckage Of Stars and Selves We Cannot Forgive, the latter of which dropped over four years ago. Now, there have been plenty of issues that have befallen the band over their brief history, including number of line-up changes where they are still searching for a permanent drummer even now; but with the leap to a new permanent home with Century Media Records, the band look hungrier and better backed than ever. Now with Black Crown Initiate in their strongest position to date and the extreme metal world eagerly watching and waiting, the big question is… has the wait been worth it?
Violent Portraits Of Doomed Escape begins in a solemn and sorrowful manor, with a beautiful acoustic guitar part and the powerful vocals of guitarist/vocalist Andy Thomas that sounds like it could have been ripped straight from any of the classic Opeth albums. When the distortion kicks in and we hear the first vocals from James Dorton the mood changes from melancholic to one of almost panic, with heavy breathing between words and emotion in his delivery. The guitar tones of Thomas and the relatively new axe of Ethan McKenna sound gargantuan and drown the listener in the low tuned, dirge of a tone that they have so painstakingly chosen. Throw into that the rumbling bass lines of Nick Shaw and the impressive drum work on display and you’ve got yourself a water tight melee of intricate time signatures and musical cohesion, that you could expect from the industrial metal titans in Fear Factory.
The opening riff of Son Of War sets the pace wonderfully as the band trudge their way through the half time opening bars. The post-rock inspired lead guitars echo away and create a feel of tension that intertwines with the demonic sounding, almost hushed delivery from Dorton, to create a dreary, dismal atmosphere. The only thing that breaks up this claustrophobic soundscape are the bursts of double bass kicks and tremolo rhythms that really hammer the band’s technicality home. The follow-up to He Is The Path is a creepy interlude that keeps the overwhelming sense of dread and mystery afloat, with just over two minutes worth of subtle, soft musicianship and more wonderful storytelling in the vocal department.
The aforementioned interlude leads into one of the heaviest moments of Violent Portraits Of A Doomed Escape, in the form of Years In A Frigid Light which is a melting pot of blast beats, chainsaw like riffs and death metal vocals. This song is sure to be a live favourite when things return to normal and the band can walk the stage again, especially with a clean vocal section with the kind of hooks that Thomas lays down so well. The following track is straight up bizarre, with a hauntingly empty backdrop we’re treated to Dorton performing some form of strange throat singing, giving off the feeling that he is a caged animal waiting by the door to be released.
In the back end, we arguably find the finest moment on the entire album, Holy Silence, a near eight-minute opus that shows you just how much artistry and creative mastery Black Crown Initiate possess at this point in their career. The use of clean vocals over the top of the chaotic drum work works wonderfully and once again highlights the band’s ability to meld their melodic sensibilities, and their surgeon-like rhythmic precision means they can reach a wider audience than most that find themselves pigeon-holed. The bridge of the song shows the introduction of an acoustic guitar which has been incredibly recorded and mixed, along with a second guitar that is drowned in effects. This coupled with the heavy section behind it and the impressive lead guitar work is a fantastic left turn, which presents exactly what BCI do best and that is keep people guessing throughout.
So, to answer the question, yes. Absolutely yes. It may have been a long time coming, but Violent Portraits Of Doomed Escape is the sound of a well established and well thought of band, who are coming of age and laying down their finest work to date. This album is the sound of a finely tune machine of a band, hitting their creative stride and landing themselves at the top of the game as a result.
A tremendous effort.
Standout Tracks: Son Of War, Years In A Frigid Light, Holy Silence
For Fans Of: Rivers Of Nihil, Beyond Creation, Obscura
Written by: Richard Webb