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For all of its violent and evil tenancies, black metal is also capable of being a truly soothing style of music. While it might not be spa material, the warm, fuzzy guitar tone and depressive melodies found on an album like Drudkh’s Autumn Aurora does produce a calming effect. Vacuous Spectral Silence, the debut full length from the Aussie act Crowned, follows in that tradition, producing a series of long, melancholic pieces of black metal that entrance and hypnotize.
Vacuous Spectral Silence stands out at the extremes of the sound spectrum, with a dense low end and light, fluttering high end. The bass and drums create a muddy, cavernous sound that gives the music the quality of being recorded in a dingy underground layer. In contrast, the lead guitars are beaming, emitting emotive melodies which shine forth like neon lights against the dirty backdrop. The keys, which are employed selectively, produce a similar effect. The growls don’t add a lot to the sound; they’re pretty standard and understated dry rasps. However, the quasi-Gregorian chants, which are used a few times throughout the album, are well executed and enhance the esoteric quality of the recording.
The major flaw with Vacuous Spectral Silence is that the rhythm guitar lacks body. There’s the low end and the high end, but diaphanous rhythm guitar leaves the album out of balance. There’s absolutely no punch to it at all; granted, this sort of album doesn’t need to have razor sharp riffs, but a little bulk and edge in the rhythm section would go a long way in rounding out Crowned’s sound.
The songwriting on Vacuous Spectral Silence won’t blow you away, but Crowned are able to sustain interest over seven to fourteen minute timespans. The band does a good job playing the riffs for long enough that the listener can drown in the affective melodies, but employs enough variation to keep the songs from stagnating. From a critical perspective, this album does lack the sort of standout tracks that one ravenously runs back to. From a more positive perspective, Crowned never slide into mediocrity or monotony; this is an album that maintains its quality from start to finish.
Crowned is definitely a band with promise. The issues that harm the debut definitely appear to be fixable. Even with its flaws, those who enjoy melodic, atmospheric black metal will do themselves a favor by checking out Vacuous Spectral Silence.
Orignally written for Deafsparrow.com