Black Crown Initiate - Violent Portraits of Doomed Escape
Century Media
Progressive Metal
9 songs (50:23)
Release year: 2020
Century Media
Reviewed by Goat

Pennsylvanian progsters Black Crown Initiate may be cursed with an unwieldy name but their mixture of modern death and progressive metal more than makes up for it. It's a moderately original formula, plenty of clean singing and acoustic guitar plucks set alongside death metal roars and verging-on-djenty guitar chugging in a measured and well-written album with a solid grasp of dynamics, and the results are impressive. Opener Invitation builds softly before exploding into heaviness with almost ranting growls, flowing into the first of several catchy choruses on the album - older Opeth with a touch of deathcore, perhaps? Yet the chugging riffs are often just the base for other guitar melodies to be built upon with extended lead sections, and although Black Crown Initiate repeat the Swedes' trick of sudden acoustic breaks here, it does feel more considered and effective thanks to the use of the chorus. They are obviously unafraid to pack the hooks in, far moreso than you would consider normal for either a prog or death metal band, and it helps that their songwriting skills mean that this is quite a varied album.

The tumbling rhythm section anchors the groovy Son of War, for instance, making it sound like a pumped-up Gojira with clean singing over blastbeats sections to add spice and show Black Crown Initiate's instrumental skills off well, particularly (session) sticksman Gabe Seeber (who has taken the drumstool for everyone from Abbath to Possessed). Trauma Bonds builds up from a mellow proggy introduction before becoming a dizzying riff-driven epic with a grandiose melodic chorus, the song overall feeling like a cross between She Said Destroy and Devin Townsend, definitely an early album highlight. Guitarists Andy Thomas and James Dorton are the subtle MVPs here with their playing driving the album, but bassist Nick Shaw is no slouch, his contributions skilful and clearly audible in the sometimes too "loud" mix. And Thomas' clean singing helps keep, for instance, the stormy Years of Frigid Light weighed down amidst a thunderous instrumental section that fades out amidst throat-singing that continues through interlude Bellow.

In some ways this is a difficult album to get to grips with; for all the hooks, songs do take a couple of listens to really understand, particularly once you get to the second half with cuts like the complex Death Comes in Reverse. They are all solid songs if not outright highlights; Sun of War definitely close to the top as the galloping metal underneath the clean singing becomes more of a death/thrash assault. And Holy Silence strays into tech-death territory with some of the best riffing and soloing on the album, capping things off at a peak before slightly underwhelming outro He Is the Path. Not a perfect album, by any means; the djent influence to the guitar riffs can seem as though it limits them to mere aggressive noises at points, and there's enough flab to make this fifty-minute-plus listen overlong. It does feel like the band's formula is missing just that little something extra to really impress, too; yet Black Crown Initiate are a skilled group and fans of modern prog metal will enjoy this.

Killing Songs :
Trauma Bonds, Death Comes in Reverse, Sun of War, Holy Silence
Goat quoted 78 / 100
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