Wednesday 1 February 2023

Crowne - Operation Phoenix (2023)

Country: Sweden
Style: Melodic Rock/Power Metal
Rating: 8/10
Release Date: 27 Jan 2023
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram | Metal Archives

Crowne are a new Swedish band, formed in 2020, who are already on their second album and it's a strong statement. They feel like they're enjoying this so much that they might just stay inside the studio and turn out albums three, four and five in the next couple of weeks. Given that they play a tasty blend of melodic rock on steroids that's just as much power metal, it's not surprising that I first heard them on Chris Franklin's excellent Raised on Rock radio show. They're almost designed for that show, carefully tailored and custom fitted, with soaring hooks and constant melodies.

Those melodies are at the heart of everything, the riffs supporting them and frankly joining them whenever they can. It's not hard to see where the sound came from. While Super Trooper isn't the Abba song, there's some Abba in these melodies. It always feels cheap to suggest Abba in reviews of melodic rock albums, especially when they're by bands from Sweden, but their influence on an apparently unrelated genre only seems to grow over time. The most overtly Abba song here may be the closer, Northern Lights, which feels like the midpoint between Abba and a Blind Guardian singalong. I could easily hear the audience singing this chorus for five minutes.

The more pertinent comparison though is to a different Swedish band, namely Europe, just with a little bit more power metal in the mix and far more subtlety in the keyboards. Juliette may be the most obvious Europe-influenced song here, and not only because it's named for a woman, but it's far from the only one to demonstrate how much lead guitarist Love Magnusson has listened to John Norum and how much vocalist Alexander Strandell has listened to Joey Tempest.

That shouldn't surprise at all, but I'll confess to a little surprise at moments that remind me firmly of Alex Falk of Fear of the Dark. That's mostly in the verses rather than the choruses, but it's there on the opening title track and Champions and In the Name of the Fallen after it and ongoing. Fear of the Dark, of course, are yet another Swedish band, albeit not as well known as the others that I've mentioned thus far—and yes, I know that Blind Guardian are German. What's in the water up there in Stockholm and Gothenburg?

If there's a problem here, it's in how consistent this album is. It feels like an album that should be huge, because it's about as accessible as it gets. If you're into soft or melodic rock, then it's never more than a breath away from a melody and every song has a hook. It ought to work well for you. If you're into heavier stuff and skip over the softer material as a matter of course, well, this ought to work well for you too, because it's always energetic and powerful, even in its quietest moments. It looks at that sliding scale from Europe's poppiest singles to HammerFall's heaviest deep cuts and says, sure, that works for Crowne. Frankly, we kind of forget how heavy any particular song is or is not, and just fall into the album.

And, yeah, I said that's a problem, because we also kind of forget how good this is. While this is in motion it does the business, on every one of the eleven tracks on offer, but, when it's over, we get on with our lives and only gradually, as we listen to other albums and wonder why they're not quite as good, do we think back and wonder just if we've underrated this one. It also means that it's not an easy job to pull out the highlights. I'm remembering moments: the keyboard intro to Ready to Run, the chorus to Northern Lights, the guitar solo in Juliette. This is one of those choice albums where the best song is always whichever one is playing right now.

No comments:

Post a Comment