Black Crown Initiate - The Wreckage Of Stars
This is the debut long-player of Pennsylvanian five piece Black Crown Initiate and it's a blinder. You don't just listen to this album - you experience it.
It's full of dazzling musicianship - thunderously heavy but with moments of total and utter beauty. Now, we love labeling and categorising things. Prog metal, thrash metal, death metal, black metal, etc and yes it's useful to have 'genres' and I'm a fan of labels. To a point. They can be helpful. But what if you have elements of all those things and more in the music? Progmetaldeathblackthrash? I don't think so. Could we just call it music I wonder?
The over-riding influence on this album is of course death metal. It's rife with rip-your-face-off blast beats and harsh gutteral vocals that many people will just instantly switch off from but with time and investment you'll discover a beauty and brilliance within. Everything in this album is just colours on the palette and textures that make up the finished canvas. There are soaring passages of melodic clean vocals that take you skyward and intricate guitar parts that only add to the patterns weaved in this musical tapestry. It's hell of a journey!
I'm going to drop the P word here and I apologise. Progressive. Yes, I know. You're picturing little goblins prancing through a faerie world while fluffy white clouds float listlessy through blue skies and a hey-nonny, fucking-no. Well, stop that this instant. This is progressive music in the true sense of the word. It pushes the boundaries of what can be possible with heavy music. They're not the only band doing this of course. Check out Ne Obliviscaris or Opeth for more genre bending bands. The key to how great this album is that it's brutally heavy and what makes it more so are the contrasting quieter passages. Take album opener A Great Mistake. A clean acoustic intro bursts into a riff that just tears you apart from within. The acoustic passage weaves in and out of the track and boasts a melodic chorus that soars across the heavens. Epic start.
The Fractured One is a flurry of blast beats with some jaw-dropping DM vocal gymnastics that's like being rabbit punched to the back of the head by Bruce Lee. Malignant is up next with it's black metal vocal stylings and more blast beats following on from the gentle intro. It's aggressive stuff but again has an accessible clean vocal section. This twists into an almost jazz like interlude, replete with off beats, before transforming again into a sickly sweet riff featuring some lovely double-bass footwork.
More blast beats go for the throat in The Human Lie Manifest. It's an easy to sing-along verse, epic sounding with some scorching fretwork. It's melodic sensibilities put me in mind of Heartwork era Carcass. Up next is Withering Waves. Intricate guitar lines underpin the main assault. What is striking here is the scope of the musical arrangement. It's beautifully paced and balances violence and beauty expertly. It's maturity belies the bands two year existence. To the Eye That Leads You is a nihilistic slice of misery. 'What if all you love here never thinks a thing of you?' Title track The Wreckage of Stars has a beautifully soft intro with some odd time signature drumming. It seems to describe the randomness of the stars and planets above us. It is delicate and frail for four minutes or so before the vocals scream in proclaiming 'the father is dead'. The theme is doomy and executed perfectly.
"What is striking here is the scope of the musical arrangements. They're beautifully paced and balance violence and beauty expertly."
Shape's Collapse brings the thunder and lightning again with it's deathly chugging passages. It's riffs are jarring, twisting and fierce. By contrast it drops seemlessly into a light mid-section before slamming into you again with a devastatingly heavy, apocalyptic riff that could trample an elephant. Purge starts off all acoustic beauty but transforms into something that is nastier than a night out with Jeff Dahmer. After your head has been put in his fridge the track ends with a lovely acoustic outro. Final track is called Linear. It's a short and sweet ending and the outwardly positive melody disguises it's pessimistic outlook. 'It fades away, the wreckage and our purpose'.
Black Crown Initiate have debuted with an album of an outstanding quality that bands who have been around for years never achieve. It sounds massive and the musicianship on display throughout these 10 tracks is outstanding. Definitely ones to watch out for. Fans of progressive death metal will love this but it's also for people who enjoy music that can take them on a journey. If you like your music to be just a little bit more spoon-fed and poppy with more 'whoa, woah woah's' than a Bon Jovi best of, then this may not be for you. But it's your loss.