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A road much less traveled. - 97%

hells_unicorn, October 1st, 2011

Death metal’s arguably prettier cousin/offshoot melodeath has been the subject of either heavy praise or ridicule, depending on who one is talking to. The adherents tout the fact that it brilliantly merges extreme music with an accessibility more often associated with traditional and power metal, while the detractors point out that apart from the toneless and harsh vocal technique employed, the style bears no resemblance to its alleged roots, let alone the more extreme versions ushered in by Suffocation and a few others in the early to mid 90s. But for the early works of The Crown (formerly known as Crown Of Thorns), things take an interesting twist and the band actually succeeds in embodying the qualities sought after by both avid melodeath fans and members of the viler, more archaic clan.

While some have grouped this band in with the well known Gothenburg scene due to their country of origin (though they hail from a different city) and a somewhat similar sound to that of latter day At The Gates, The Crown’s powerful yet oddly under appreciated 2nd album is in a category all by itself. While definitely not out of step with the consonant contours in the guitar progressions also found in the early melodeath pioneers, the aggression and speed factor is much more pronounced. In other words, these guys were turning back the clock a few years when the ambiguity between death and thrash metal was still to be found amongst the likes of the Teutonic Trio, Possessed, middle era Death, and a few other bands mixing a somewhat more orthodox riff set for the late 80s thrash sound with a rougher vocal style.

Naturally, it should be kept in mind that while this band is more in line with the early transition of the death metal style into a somewhat more nuanced melodic character, that this album does not sound exactly like Death’s “Individual Thought Patterns” or Carcass’s “Heartwork”. It’s more of a sound that is linked with those albums, particularly the technical guitar tendencies of the former, but also cognizant of the power metal oriented character of the band’s contemporaries circa 1997. It also takes a few pointers from the extreme fringes of death metal by putting an emphasis on fast paced drumming, as much of the first half of this album contains blast beats aplenty and frequent shifts in beat with fills every 5 or so seconds, almost preempting the still yet to be fully discovered tech. death style that became much more pervasive in the next decade.

But perhaps the crowning element of this album (no pun intended) is the overall bleakness and rebellious character on full display. The level of fervor and aggression articulated in the vocal work alone is rivaled only by a number of black metal bands that had redefined the concept of morose just a few years prior, with fellow Swedish outfit Marduk probably being the most obvious comparison. Naturally the character of the guitar is a bit crunchier and the distortion is less fuzz driven, but songs such as “Beautiful Evil Soul”, “World Within” and “Kill (The Priest)” really bring home the chaotic carnage. A few other songs on here take a slower, solemner character, particularly “The Black Heart” which is the closest to this band sounding like a typical Gothenburg outfit, but the vast majority of this listens like a melodeath answer to “Persecution Mania” or “Pleasure To Kill”.

Words like essential or mandatory don’t quite say what is going on here, but for the purpose of summing things up, unique is the way to put it. None of the most noteworthy Swedish, Finnish, German or American bands representing this style have taken it in this direction, and The Crown themselves have since changing their name and going through a couple of different vocalists before bringing back the original. Often times the truly interesting albums come about in between eras where a particular approach to a style becomes heavily emulated, and while this came out in the midst of In Flames and Dark Tranquillity defining what we now know as the Gothenburg sound, this was looking back a few years prior when the death/thrash roots of the style were still largely present. In one respect it’s a shame that this album wasn’t more widely imitated, but at the same time, it’s uniqueness is the primary thing that puts it above much of the admittedly crowded and very popular scene that melodeath has become.

Wonderfully expansive and intelligent melodeath - 91%

Noktorn, August 28th, 2011

It never ceases to amaze me that albums like this one are not the standard mold for melodic death metal. How is it that an album like "Eternal Death," which so wonderfully merges a traditional, consonant melodic sensibility with the raw aggression and heaviness of death/thrash metal, gets shafted in favor of saccharine Gothenburg schlock? I mean, we're all listening to heavy metal, right? We should want our melodic death metal to sound like this- a form of it that doesn't forget the death metal on the way to the melodic. It goes without saying that "Eternal Death" is the sort of album alongside such luminary products as "God Was Created" or "Death Metal" should be setting the standard for what melodic death metal should sound like, and it's truly a pity that more haven't come to hear and appreciate it.

The Crown (technically Crown of Thorns for the original release of this, but I have the Century Media reissue under the more modern name) is a band who later in their career made a slick, bouncy style of death/thrash that was in many ways as much rock and roll as it was extreme metal; it was excellent music, but more for how it flawlessly merged ripping and enthralling extreme metal with a pop/rock sensibility for catchiness and memorability. "Eternal Death," on the other hand, shows the band in what I would rather reluctantly refer to as a more "artistic" mode- it's less overtly fun than the band's later material and is more thoroughly composed. I don't like to make a distinction between "high" and "low" art like that, especially when I have to go back on it- because "Eternal Death," while not as overtly rocking and easily digested as the band's later work, is still a phenomenally fun release. While not adhering to any of the Gothenburg tropes, The Crown created an album in this one which manages to be just as immediately listenable and catchy as late At the Gates but with an exponential amount more depth to the compositions.

The melodic style on this record is equal parts Swedeath and traditional power metal, but tempered by the speed and ferocity of the compositions. Alongside the dizzying array of melodic yet ripping tremolo riffs and wildly enthusiastic solos are more biting and vicious death/thrash numbers that could be as easily stripped from early Kreator as they could be from Swedish black metal ala Marduk (see "Kill (The Priest).") By finding a sort of straddling point between the different varieties of extreme metal and rounding the edges with a similar melodic sensibility, "Eternal Death" isn't watered down, but enriched by the various musical ideas found in its tracks. The band's extreme willingness to vary their style is another point in their favor; songs range from the raw savagery of the aforementioned "Kill (The Priest)" to the over-the-top, quixotically melodic opener "Angels Die" and the more considered and deliberately paced "The Black Heart"- while the tracks can be massively different from one another, they all revolve around a consistent stylistic core that keeps things exciting yet relevant.

Perhaps what truly makes this album so great, though, is its aggression merging with the melody so inherent to the band's music at this point in their career. The first half of the album is more heavily loaded with traditional melodic death metal, while the second half amps up the intensity with a greater thrash influence. Even on the first half, though, you'll notice elements that are basically absent from Gothenburg melodeath: blast beats, truly incisive, rawly growled vocals, and riffs that can manage to both be stirringly melodic and undeniably heavy at the same time. It might simply be a reaction to what the majority of melodic death metal happens to be, but I can't help but think that The Crown's take on the style is one of the most versatile, consistent, and satisfying that the genre has produced. At no point do you doubt you're listening to a authentic heavy metal record with this release- through and through, The Crown maintains a great balance between all the elements to create something truly more than the sum of its parts.

Unfortunately forgotten even by fans of the band, "Eternal Death" is a landmark release in a style mostly known for cheesy, overblown displays of mainstream grasping in favor of solid, engaging music. By sticking with tried-and-true extreme metal elements but expanding the melodic pallet, "Eternal Death" manages to enthrall even listeners like me whose gaze is far more centered on the most brutal and inaccessible forms of metal. It goes without saying that this is a mandatory purchase for all fans of melodic death metal. Don't pass this one up simply because it hasn't shown up on many top 10 lists for the style- one listen expresses very neatly that this is a hidden gem for those who would bother to seek it out.

Total Death Worship - 100%

unkreation, April 23rd, 2011

This is probably one of the best things to ever come from Sweden. First of all, this is not Melodic Death Metal, even if it might be branded as. Sure, it's melodic, and, sure, it's Gothenburg ("stylistically"), but this is so much darker and more evil, than anything you'd ever see called MDM. Hell, if MDM were like this, I'd be the first admitted fan of the style. Alas, it's not the case. What you hear here is pure damn blasphemy, hatred and aggression put to music!

The album opens with "Angels Die", which quickly shows you what to expect from "Eternal Death". Melodic intro leads out into a full-speed audial assault, which is what it is all about. Hatred flows through this music. In every note, in every growl of the vocalist you hear it pulsate, ready to explode. This is the first standout track from this album, of which there are ten. "Beautiful Evil Soul" basically continues the line, started on the opener. Still as fast, still as hateful, still as melodic, still like a sledgehammer landing into your sorry brains. Possess me, beautiful evil soul! Devotion, dedication, it echoes through your veins. The lyrics are very remarkable as well and you're likely to scream it along from the second time onwards (and hell, there will be a second time). Needless to say, it's definitely one of the highlights here (of which there are ten).

"Nothing left for me, but Eternal Death"! "In Bitterness and Sorrow" is one hell of a slaughterfest. You guessed it right, it's one of the best songs here, but I am not going to describe it, just try for yourself. "The Black Heart" is a slow one, almost a ballad. Dedicated to one and only Per Yngve "Dead" Ohlin from the legendary Mayhem and Morbid, it frequently quotes his statements and follows his artistic path, until the very gory happy end. While a somewhat letdown on the original listen, it very much grows on you, thanks to inventive arrangements and drum lines. "World Within" might make you think of the good era of At The Gates and rightfully so. Catchy melodies and skillful riffing, paired with Johan's desperate screams, produce an excellent result! "The Serpent Garden", which follows next, is very melodic, but also dark, pretty much in line with the previous song. But nothing would prepare you to the machine gun extravaganza, that is "Kill (the Priest)", 100 seconds of madness and blastbeats! The Panzer-era Marduk is the best comparison I have to this, but, trust me, Crown Of Thorns manages to pull the same tricks much more convincingly, making this a definite favourite of mine from "Eternal Death" (of which there are ten).

I am just going to skip "Misery Speaks" as there is really nothing wrong with it, a perfect song for a perfect album. "Hunger" is another very memorable one. Starting slowly, it explodes with a f**king hurricane, when the chorus starts. Apart from the obvious musical quality, it's also very inspiring and, unless you're just planning to kill yourself without accomplishing your goals, you're bound to love the message. Then again, if you're planning to kill yourself, you should probably just do so, instead of listening to this, you weak pathetic scum. Another amazing track!

And the finisher is "Death Of God", which spans into 10 raping minutes of deathbliss. Starting with a quote from "Warlock", it features a wide variety of tempos, which the band utilizes to accomplish what Nietzsche once started - the total and utmost destruction of the god's feeble kingdom. "Cursed be thy name, your kingdom of slaves, blessed be those who rise up against God"! Isn't that beautiful? Definitely makes it into my top songs from this one (of which there are f**king ten).

If I am to describe the instruments separately, I would say, that the musicianship shown here is very remarkable. The guitars are very well done, with both solos and rhythm parts merging perfectly. The bass is audible and roaring, which is a good thing, as it's often neglected. The drumming is diverse and skilled and it's one of the things, that would make you bang your head to almost every beat, once you're familiar enough with the songs. And, of course, the vocals! This voice spews forth blasphemy and hatred in such a desperate fashion, that most other vocalists would never dream of. What I mean is, sometimes when you listen to a band it just sounds like if the vocalist doesn't really believe in what he's singing about. Doesn't that annoy you? It sure does annoy me. Well, it's certainly not the case here, as Johan's screams are true as f**k.

Overall, it's about 52 minutes of Total Death Worship. Sure, it's no "religious" or "orthodox", like the new school bands claim to be, but the message is deep and honest and it's sure as hell much more wicked, than about 95% of the so-called Satanic underground, so this is NOT to be missed.

Originally written for From the Pulpits of Abomination blog:

Good god, why don't these guys get more press? - 93%

Etiam, October 28th, 2005

The Crown is easily one of the best metal bands to come out Sweden. Ever. But, they are often overshadowed by the Gothenburg movement, which is very unfortunate, considering the pummeling and unique music they play.

Often lauded for their Deathrace King release (after the name change) or mentioned as one of Tomas Lindberg's many quickies, the rest of The Crown's career seems to fall by the wayside. This is slightly understandable, considering the underwhelming album Possessed 13 and the subsequent break-up, but for any self respecting Death Metalhead, The Crown is a must.

I was surprised at the raw brutality of this release, particularly after the (relatively) soothing acoustic guitar introduction to Angels Die, which is easily one of the best tracks they've recorded. Deathrace King is often called their harshest release, but these tracks are just exploding with blastbeats, furiously quick riffs, and licks packed to the brim with attitude. Not to mention Johan on vocals, whose venom filled shrieks are definately underrated.

Musically, this is fast paced all the way, no respite, no quarter given. But, The Crown (of Thorns) is not one for ham-handed bludgeoning. They certainly bludgeon, but with class. Lead guitarist Marko whips up solos that fit just right between the riffs and time changes, while the rhythm and bass rumble along at full speed. Blending some of the 'death 'n' roll' elements they were later known for with sheer power and thrash 'till death intensity, The Crown really lay it all out here in one of the most passsionate metal albums I've come across.

Their songwriting hasn't quite peaked yet, and there are moments that blend from one song to the next a little, I admit. But, for each riff that's merely just good, there are vocal lines and solos stepping up to catch your ear, then shred it and feed it back to you.

Get this. Hell, get all their albums, you'll not regret it.