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The middle of the 1990s was a rather turbulent time, particularly for the Scandinavian scene where a looming rivalry between the emerging black metal scene and the prominent Swedish death metal scene was about. It might be an overt platitude to say that this time period was musically standing somewhere between the past and the future since that is the textbook definition of the present, but with regards to the somewhat obscure Swedish outfit Crown Of Thorns (now known as The Crown), it is a testimony of a band standing between the evolving melodic character of albums such as Death’s contemporary work “Symbolic” and At The Gates’ “Slaughter Of The Soul”, and the older scenes of both Florida and Sweden. But whereas their somewhat better known sophomore effort “Eternal Death” can be somewhat linked to the Gothenburg sound, their first full length “The Burning” is a much further away from any such comparisons.
For the casual listener who might have encountered early death/thrash albums from the latter half of the 80s, be it German or American, this album has an all too familiar character to it. Recognizable samples of occult oriented episodes chime in either at the beginning or end of a few key songs that pulverize the ears like a ton of tempered steel, refined with a guitar sound that is remarkably similar to the Metallica-on-steroids sound of Chuck Schuldiner’s signature sound. There’s a bit more of a chaotic aesthetic than Death’s largely orthodox thrash influences, featuring the occasional blast beat and shimmering tremolo melody that carries occasional commonalities with Immortal’s “Battles In The North” oddly enough, though in a more precise manner. In fact, there would be a stronger case for comparing this outfit to a number of thrash infused 2nd wave black outfits than the Gothenburg scene that they seem to occasionally be lumped in with.
Song for song, this album carries its greatest strength in its brevity, avoiding epic song lengths and pummeling the listener with short bursts of systematic aggression. Between the thrashing nastiness of “Soulicide Demon-Might” and “Forever Heaven Gone”, and the almost as fast yet melodically infused “Neverending Dream” and “The Lord Of The Rings”, an intricate duality of manic rage and fatalistic depression emerges like a dragon’s wings beneath a flaming sky. The latter of the 4 songs referenced is a bit of a lyrical curiosity alongside what is mostly a dark poetic endeavor more in line with Morbid Angel than Tolkien, though musically it is yet another furious beast with guttural barks aplenty, as if the story is being told by a berserk Uruk-Hai. Johan Lindstrand’s vocals, in much the same sense as the music surrounding it, is in more of a classic death metal form, bearing more similarity to John Tardy and Karl Willetts’ deep throated growls than the somewhat higher pitched, quasi-blackened tendencies that began to chime in on subsequent releases.
There’s a good deal of amazing things going on within the confines of this album, to the point where a comparison to “Spiritual Healing” and “War Master” in terms of its quality wouldn’t be out of line, though it is a bit more modern sounding and occasionally consonant in its implicit harmonic tendencies. It is definitely something that can easily sate the appetite of most traditional death metal fans for something heavy and forbidding, though a subtle hint of melancholy darkness chimes in from time to time that could also snag some who were sympathetic to the earliest releases associated with the melodeath style. It is an album that is transitional in nature, though in a less overt fashion than that of “Eternal Death”, but it isn’t completely out of character for an older school death metal band, depending on one’s opinion of the legitimacy of Schuldiner’s transitional work from “Human” to “Symbolic” in comparison to older works. But above all else, this is a powerful album that realizes a fairly unique niche within the mid 90s era of death metal, an era where much of what passes for its various sub-genres were born.
Sweden had one of the most impressive metal scenes in the early 1990's that was brought in full-circle by several significant artists including At The Gates, Dark Tranquillity, and In Flames. The spectacle was alive and blooming with a strong emphasis on melodic death metal as youthful bands began sprouting up with their new ideas and concepts, but like any scene, there were groups that went unnoticed and were overshadowed by other outfits. Though some bands were denied their rightful awareness, The Crown managed to be screwed over the most due to the lack of attention they received and the band's supreme talent.
The Crown (known as Crown Of Thorns before a lawsuit) was like most Swedish bands at this time, but they were also quite different; the band's antithetic take on Gothenburg was made perfectly clear with their 1995 debut LP, "The Burning." The Crown's style of melodic death metal takes a zesty spark of heaviness and adds it to a circulating breeze of melody, which makes "The Burning" satisfying to all the senses.
Due to the overwhelming melodic structure, I think "The Burning" can be considered a Gothenburg album as it has several similar qualities to many releases that spring from the Swedish-born genre. The riffing follows the melodies and harmonies found in most Gothenburg bands with the addition of various technical solos. A lot of the songs focus around melodic tendencies with harmonic riffs that bands like Dark Tranquillity and At The Gates traditionally used. Johan Lindstrand's dark vocals contribute a gigantic amount of energy and power to this record as he dishes out growl after growl with excessive might. Johan's barks sound original and clear, which is a key asset that most death metal frontmen lack.
Brutality wasn't factored into many Gothenburg albums at this time, but "The Burning" proved otherwise as The Crown unleashed a frantic show of melody with a crushing fist of heaviness. Guitarists Marko Tervonen and Marcus Sunesson play unusually fast and change riffs at accelerated paces with a variety of pleasing guitar work. The way Tervonen and Sunesson play is much heavier than several other Gothenburg bands as they exercise speed along with their meldoic influences; the result is an unpredictable guitar show with some of the darkest melodic death metal around. Drummer Janne Saarenpää frequently uses blastbeats and fills rather than easy drum patterns, which is another seed that remained dormant in many melodic death outfits during the early 1990's.
Those who typically dread the Gothenburg sound will be surprised upon hearing "The Burning" and all the heaviness surrounding it. The Crown isn't an ordinary melodic death band, but rather a group that enforces brutality along side their Gothenburg roots. "The Burning" is one of The Crown's best releases and should be picked up by anyone who enjoys melodic death to the slightest degree.
This review was written for: http://www.Thrashpit.com