C R O W N – Natron
Candelight Records continue a string of impressive releases with Philadelphian band C R O W N’s Natron. Set for release ‘at the end of August’ (excuse the 36 Crazypun), Natron is a truly surprising affair that whips up a unique brand of post-doom the likes of which I haven’t heard before. Billed as ‘three men, three guitars, a voice and a machine’, C R O W N follow the tried and tested heavy/soft formula but take the heavy side of the equation very seriously indeed. Think Krokodil without any of the fucking around with writing catchy tunes. The dissonant riffs, when they appear (and believe me, you’ll be waiting for it), are icy, cavernous and piercing; the sound of three guitars united in a single, concentrated blast more evident and powerful than most other three-guitar outfits.
To supplement the massive guitar sound, the band use a drum machine which works effectively in both clean and distorted sections. In their louder moments, the drum machine allows the band to match the ferocity of the guitars with an equally explosive percussive flourish. When Natron calms down, the drums combine with waves of reverb-drenched, shimmering notes to construct a canvas of sterility. The vocals lean toward the same functionality as the drums, offering phantasmal chants in one hand and pained, digitally warped screams on the other, offering coldness and power respectively.
Atmospherically, Natron owes to Insomnium and Katatonia for its pained and bleak sound-world, but also to post- bands such as Isis, Neurosis and especially No Made Sense in regards to their knack for blending more industrial, primitive elements into their post-rock assault. After two midpaced tracks, the album’s third song Wings Beating Over Heaven picks up the pace and tosses some black metal into the mix, with programmed blast beats and a faster vocal delivery. The song slows down again into some ambient tension building as it approaches its second third, introducing chanting and layers of guitars, before erupting into a fearsome doomswept crescendo. As the song calms down once more, acoustic guitars take centre stage but are quickly ushered away by a repurposing of the intense blast beats from the track’s introduction. It’s powerful, moving music which ebbs like the tide; one moment a friend, the next an enemy. Natron even contains a very nearly standard rock song, Fossils, which bridges the two halves of the album, functioning as an anchor of ‘normality’ in a sea of dead sounds.
Natron walks the line between dead and alive, and with a foundation of stagnancy shot through with strong melodic compositional sensibilities, it’s like looking at a beautiful painting through a blue filter. C R O W N prove with this seven track death knell that it’s not always sunny in Philadelphia [Please note, this is just a pun, the band are actually from Colmar in the east of France].
Words: Ben Armstrong