Having released two critically hailed, fan-worshipped works of progressive death metal, 2014’s Wreckage of Stars and its 2016 follow-up Selves We Cannot Forgive, Black Crown Initiate have found a new label home with Century Media. Formed in Reading, Pennsylvania in 2012, Black Crown Initiate have created a stir that’s stretched far beyond the underground with a sound that is at once sweeping, chaotic and epic in scope and ambition.
Now, on August 7th 2020, they continue that ambition with their 3rd album, Violent Portraits of Doomed Escape.
There’s nothing quite like surprising listeners from the very moment you start your new album and Black Crown Initiate certainly surprise. Opening with mellow guitar playing and mournful clean vocals, Invitation is unexpected. Then in an instant, it changes direction and transforms into a desperate and starving death metal beast. It’s an exceptional start.
Well and truly off the mark now, it’s hard to not greedily lap up the drum/guitar heaviness and soaring vocal moments of Son of War. Whereas Trauma Bonds is an eclectic piece that showcases an uneasy alliance between progressive melodies, epic imagination and harsh death metal groove.
Only a third of the way in and there’s no doubting the ambition of Black Crown Initiate here. Ambition that is met by the capabilities of this band as they continue to create amazingly detailed and interesting music. Even when they’re playing it a little more straightforward and chucking out something akin to a sledgehammer over the head (Years in Frigid Light). The drumming alone is some of the tightest you’ll hear all year. The mellow stops, perfect to enhance the returning ferocity. Easily one of the best tracks on the album.
Bellow is less so but not because it’s bad or anything. Rather it’s a short-ish intermission of ragged moans and growls coming from the a dark cave. Odd. Very odd.
Happily less odd but just as challenging is Death Comes in Reverse. A laid-back set of guitars and a methodical drum beat slip into a fair bit more chaos. At the front are the various vocals and sharp guitar tones while at the back, the bass and drums bang away. Then, just when you’re getting used to it, off go Black Crown Initiate with a much more violent tone.
Truly one of the most memorable albums you’ll hear this year, Sun of War’s opening melody is tear-jerking. However, the bursts of savage abusiveness are where it’s really out. Black Crown Initiate going from unbridled furious lows to grand metal highs so easily, you can’t help but wonder why everyone isn’t doing it!
The answer is pretty simple though. Others just aren’t quite as good as Black Crown Initiate and having already proven that, it’s up to Holy Silence and He is the Path to add the exclamation point.
The former, as enormous as the track it follows. The darker tone to the rhythm is notable and once again, it’s the perfect combination of confusion and confidence. While the latter, ends things with a haunting and short medley of classic instruments, ancient vocals and atmosphere.
What an Earth is this? Black Crown Initiate have truly stood up to be counted. Violent Portraits of Doomed Escape is an instant classic.
Black Crown Initiate – Violent Portraits of Doomed Escape Full Track Listing:
2. Son of War
3. Trauma Bonds
4. Years in Frigid Light
6. Death Comes in Reverse
7. Sun of War
8. Holy Silence
9. He is the Path
Black Crown Initiate – Violent Portraits Of Doomed Escape (Century Media Records)
The Final Score - 9/10