Tuesday 20 April 2021

The Crown - Royal Destroyer (2021)

Country: Sweden
Style: Thrash/Death Metal
Rating: 8/10
Release Date: 12 Mar 2021
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I was going to start this review by pointing out that I hadn't heard the Crown before, even though this is their eleventh album in only just over double that, so it would seem that I'm playing catch-up. Then I realised that the Crown used to be called Crown of Thorns, so I do know them, as Eternal Death sits on my CD shelves right next to the American Crown of Thorns, who beat them to a release by one year, so prompting the Swedes to change their name instead of the other way around. But hey, I'm still playing catch-up because I haven't heard them since 1997 and they have, well, eleven albums since then.

They appear keen to get me right back on their side, because they kick off with a real blitzkrieg for an opener! This is not the melodic death sound we know from Gothenburg bands, but then the Crown are from at least an hour up the road in Trollhättan, so they clearly don't feel those rules apply to them. I would call this thrash metal as much as death metal and, while they do slow down to churn every once in a while, they're mostly unapologetically fast. Let's just say that it easily outpaces quite a few bands I've reviewed who call themselves straight up thrash metal.

I like this sound, which may help to explain why they've kept going so long and with a relatively stable line-up to boot. Singer Johan Lindstrand, guitarist Marko Tervonen and bassist Magnus Olsfelt were founder members of Crown of Thorns in 1990 and they're still here, thirty years on, in the Crown, even if they all took a break from 2004 and 2009 and Lindstrand hasn't always been been there otherwise. A few second guitarists and drummers have come and gone, but not many and there hasn't been a shift in line-up since 2016, when Henrik Axelsson joined on drums.

I'm blithering on because I'm still recovering from the opener. Baptized in Violence explodes through the wall and refuses to stop raging around until seventy eight seconds have passed and it's over. That isn't much more time than is taken up by the intro to the second song, Let the Hammering Begin! It's a longer song, as are most of these, running six minutes and change, but it's still fast and heavy, even if it can't remotely match that opener. Axelsson refuses to let the band slow down too far or too long, occasionally blistering along much faster than anyone else, as if hinting that they need to pick up the pace.

Most of the time, of course, they're happy to follow his lead and I'm more than happy for that too. Let the Hammering Begin! highlights how well the Crown can maintain this sort of pace for more a longer period. It speeds up and slows down, but never loses its urgency for six minutes. Motordeath may well be my favourite song, a speed metal onslaught dipped in death, and both Ultra Faust and Full Metal Justice are excellent too. It's fair, I think, to suggest that best songs are loaded in quickly, so that the second half isn't as good, but it certainly isn't bad. It's simply one notch down from excellent to pretty damn good, with some highlights of its own, like Beyond the Frail.

Whatever genre the Crown consider themselves, this is high energy metal highly recommended. Most of this played like thrash to me, with the death most obvious in Lindstrand's voice. I've often said that I'd prefer vocalists in thrash/death bands to be closer to thrash than death. Now I know exactly how to quantify that, because Lindstrand clearly has a death growl but it fits the music perfectly and he has the ability to match the aggression with texture and intonation. It doesn't feel remotely limited by its choice of style and it's exactly what I'd want to hear from a thrash/death vocalist.

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