Northern Crown - In the Hands of the Betrayer
Self Release
Epic Doom Metal
5 songs (31' 9")
Release year: 2014
Reviewed by Andy

Northern Crown, a group from Florida that is brand-new to the scene, has released their first EP with a sound of 1980s epic doom, mixed with a bit of Pentagram-style psychedelia. It shows some definite promise, especially for old-school doom lovers, although it still feels like the band is trying to determine their sonic identity beyond that of the bands they follow.

The title track is a bit faster-paced than one would expect from a doom band, but it owes a lot to their influences, many of which never could resist some thrashing of their own. The chorus is slower and more dreary, but the verse's shouted monotony reminds me of a Coven song. Of course, this being a throwback to the 80s, there is plenty of soloing, courtesy of Zachary Randall, who does most of the guitar on the album. A Perfectly Realized Torment has a keyboard organ overlaying the entire song with a Hammmond/Leslie sound straight off an old horror movie soundtrack. The guitar crunching on the verse has a pleasing, echoing sound to it and vocalist Frank Serafine's lines are similarly echoed, giving the listener the impression of a performance in a cathedral -- perhaps a ruined one, with undead creatures lurking about.

Their overly ambitious cover of Candlemass's Crystal Ball, however, is pretty unimpressive, perhaps because it's hard to improve on such a classic track. The guitar work on their rendition is excellent, and Serafine's quite good, but this may have been the best song Johan Längquist ever did during his tenure with the band, and Northern Crown simply fails to unseat the original. To Thee I Give an Orchid is where the band puts the greatest effort, with Serafine channelling some serious Messiah Marcolin vibrato. The Hammond and Leslie organ patch is back, and it is even better and more pervasive this time around; and quiet portions with bass and guitar playing softly but ominously add to the atmosphere, which also drags the tempo down to the approximate speed of a funeral march. Overall, this is probably the album's best, and certainly to my mind the most interesting.

In the Hands of the Betrayer comes off as an retro epic-doom album that mostly provides the desired atmosphere; the keyboard work, especially, is key to this. Although it's clear that the band is just getting started and still finding its way, it seems like, with some more effort they'll be able to leave their 80s heroes further behind and develop a sound that's all their own.

Killing Songs :
To Thee I Give an Orchid
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