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The king is dead, long live the king. - 93%

hells_unicorn, March 7th, 2012

If there is one enduring stereotype in the Swedish melodic death scene, it is that the genre is overrun with pretentiousness and is obsessed only with technical showmanship and maybe occasionally writing an actual song. This mostly false impression was diluted a bit with the advent of brutal and technical bands that upped the ante often to the point of sheer ridiculousness, but it still finds itself amongst some in the general death metal paradigm. The Crown is seen as being an exception to this stereotype, a band that stuck pretty closely to the thrash metal roots of their genre while still pushing the envelope in the aggression department well beyond what Slayer and Possessed originally brought to the table.

For all of the bands that have had frequent line up shifts in various parts of the metal scene, this band was one of the few that weren’t too adversely hit by this trend, at least until after their incredible speed fest “Deathrace King”. The exodus of long time vocalist Johan Lindstrand would seem to have been a major blow to the band’s sound as he provided a rather ferocious bark to augment the rest of the band’s already massive sound. But a more than adequate replacement was found in former At The Gates vocalist Tomas Lindberg, a mainstay of the same Swedish theme that this band popped out of. His voice is a bit higher pitched and resembles the colder, almost blackened character of a melodeath screamer more so than Lindstrand’s deeper bark in the mold of the earlier school, but the former works just as well with this arrangement and even brings out a bit more of the underlying thrash character of their sound.

By and large, “Crowned In Terror” smashes the ear drums with the same level of intensity as its riveting predecessor did, but with a few added wrinkles. One staple of the melodeath sound that has found itself into this album that wasn’t there before is the sense of a programmatic scheme to things, as if there was an underlying conceptual nature connecting all of these songs. The synthesizer driven intro that kicks things off in “House Of Hades” could be likened to the soundtrack them to a sci-fi epic such as “The Terminator” or “Robocop”, and acts as a prefect segue into the first unfettered barrage of thrash riffs and vile, vindictive rage that is the title song, which also has a recurring rhythmic drone that recaps the one heard in the intro instrumental.

Once this album gets going, it never really lets up, continuing to crush all its would-be naysayers with one pummeling thrash section after another. The closest to a catchy, straight up song on here is “Speed Of Darkness”, which employs some latent power metal elements during the chorus and has this spacey little interlude that is somewhat reminiscent of the “Night Rider” theme song, but even here the intensity is still quite high and systematically avoids the mellow atmospherics common to many latter day Gothenburg inspired bands. But most of the album tends to follow the blasting insanity with slightly less chaotic thrashing for contrast formula encountered on “Under The Whip” and “(I Am) Hell”, which also showcase the power lead chops this band possesses. Oddly enough, the most intense song on here from a sheer aggressiveness standpoint is the closer “Death Metal Holocaust”, which actually wanders well outside the thrash metal conventions and rivals a number of heavier works out of Suffocation in how dissonant and destructive it gets.

Though probably among the more extreme melodeath albums ever to be put out, this still keeps itself within a discernible formula that is easy to follow, and attacks conventional wisdom simply in how it approaches each otherwise predictable section. These are actual songs with easily identified verse and chorus sections, though few would want to attempt singing along at the level of throat-wrecking intensity that Lindberg achieves on here for a potential loss in power of speech. For a band that suffered their first line up shift since they put out their debut in 1995, you wouldn’t know it by how they didn’t lose a single step from one album to the next. If any of this band’s previous work appeals to you, or if you’re looking for a meaner version of what normally passes for melodeath, this is a must have.