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Proudly Giving You Whiplash Since 2002 - 92%

lonerider, August 28th, 2014
Written based on this version: 2002, CD, Metal Blade Records

The Crown have always been among that elite group of bands to showcase an almost uncanny ability, one they share with a number of other gifted outfits mostly hailing from Sweden, it seems: they effortlessly infuse their brand of death metal with insane amounts of melody without ever sounding calculated, soft or melodramatic. That is why slapping the melodic death metal label on their music, as is frequently done on many review sites all across the interwebs, definitely feels like a misnomer.

The Swedes’ fourth studio album “Crowned in Terror” is a perfect example for this conundrum: certainly you could say that death metal plus melody equals melodic death metal, yet I don’t think that would be an apt description of The Crown’s musical style. To me, the term melodic death metal is too closely associated with the so-called Gothenburg sound and bands like Dark Tranquillity or older In Flames (before they wimped out over the last decade or so), and I just don’t think The Crown sound very much like that. Yes, their music is basically death metal with lots of melody and it can be very catchy, but it’s also uncompromisingly fast, heavy, dirty, dark and mean thanks to a substantial infusion of thrash and black metal and even some (punk) rock elements. Ah, to hell with all this labeling – let’s just say it’s quite difficult to categorize this band as they incorporate elements from many of metal’s more extreme subgenres. What counts is that the resulting concoction is very potent and very likely to kick your ass at all times.

What The Crown deliver on “Crowned in Terror” is pretty much the same thing as on their previous effort “Deathrace King” (not counting “Eternal Death”, which was originally released under the Crown of Thorns moniker). It just boasts slightly better production values (even though “Deathrace King” didn’t leave much to be desired in that regard) and a different vocalist. Out is original frontman Johan Lindstrand, who gets replaced by renowned vocal-cord grinder Tomas “Tompa” Lindberg, notorious for his work with (among others) semi-legendary death metallers At the Gates. This Tomas Lindberg, by the way, is another good example of why The Crown are a difficult band to classify: his vocals are not quite death but also not quite black metal, falling somewhere in between these two styles. What they are, though, is plenty aggressive, a trait he shares with his predecessor (and successor) Johan Lindstrand. Which vocalist you prefer is strictly a matter of personal taste, as both are perfect fits for what The Crown try to accomplish.

Another highlight on “Crowned in Terror” is the supremely talented guitar work of Marcus Sunesson and Marko Tervonen, who churn out a wealth of crushing riffs and awesome lead guitar passages. There are moments of the grandiose variety on this record, moments when these two guys put on a clinic that will literally leave you gaping in awe.

As far as the actual songs are concerned, there aren’t many negatives on “Crowned in Terror”. Granted, the album doesn’t get off to a great start with the slightly pointless intro “House of Hades”, which aims at establishing a sinister, haunted atmosphere and gets the job done well enough, though I would have preferred something with a less futuristic “techno” sound. The second-to-last track “Satanist“ is nothing special either, passing as a merely decent cut that’s easily the most non-descript on the album. Other than that, it’s pretty much full speed ahead: the first two proper tracks come storming out of the gate with unrelenting fury and the fast-paced trio of “Out for Blood”, “(I Am) Hell” and “Death Is the Hunter” is of amazing quality. The latter in particular is almost scary good, an awe-inspiring thing of beauty that makes you wonder just how in blazes they managed to pull it off.

Another cut worth mentioning is “Death Metal Holocaust”, which is a bit of an anomaly for deviating slightly from The Crown’s trademark style. It sees the band omitting their usual black thrash leanings in favor of a more “traditional”, early-nineties death metal sound. Calling this an experiment would be exaggerated – it is somewhat different from the rest yet very well-executed.

Somewhere along the way, things slow down with “Drugged Unholy” and especially “World Below”. The latter is easily the most plodding piece on the album, offering a welcome respite before the tempo picks up again with “The Speed of Darkness”, a great tune notable for its (pretty cool, I might add) rendition of the main theme from the TV series Knight Rider and its amazing guitar work.

In the end, “Crowned in Terror” is simply a very, very good album that may rightfully be called a genre classic. It’s debatable whether this is better than its equally recommendable precursor “Deathrace King” or the other way around, but one thing is certain: “Crowned in Terror” is among the very best death/black/thrash hybrids you’ll ever hear, so you would be well-advised to get your own copy post-haste!

(On a side note, why The Crown later felt the need to re-record this album with original vocalist Johan Lindstrand is totally beyond me, as both Tomas Lindberg’s vocals and the production are, as mentioned earlier, top-notch.)