After a four year absence (a handful of single releases aside), Pennsylvania-based Black Crown Initiate return with their third full-length release, Violent Portraits of Doomed Escape (Century Media). From black metal to progressive rock via blasts of technical death metal, BCI effortlessly combine a whole range of differing styles resulting in their most captivating and assured record to date.
Laden with folky acoustics, the opening to ‘Invitation’ leaps into Behemoth style blackened death metal and expansive Orphaned Land melodies by means of Meshuggah and Opeth, the band switching with schizophrenic ease between the clean vocals of Andy Thomas, and James Dorton‘s bellowing roars. ‘Son of War’ features a clear Voivod influence as jazzy riffs transform into something much more intense, underpinned by complex rhythms and Thomas’s soaring voice.
Combining airy open chords with colourful basslines and Devin Townsend style riffing, the eclectic ‘Trauma Bonds’ is another highlight on an album already replete with memorable moments. ‘Years in Frigid Light’ follows, crawling between atmospheric black metal chills and ruthless technical death metal precision before ending with a rather unsettling throat singing section.
The throat singing continues with croaky but effectively bizarre vocal interlude ‘Bellow’ before the sublime ‘Death Comes in Reverse’ shifts things up to another level. Different in texture to much of the band’s other work, Thomas and Dorton once again dominate proceedings, their differing approaches juxtaposed here to tremendous effect.
The contrasting styles of ‘Sun of War’ mesh together perfectly to make one glorious whole, ‘Holy Silence’ features brutal groove-fuelled riffs and includes a wonderfully evocative guitar solo before outro piece ‘He is the Path’ returns to the melody from the opening track, the record concluding by coming full circle on itself.
Leaving even before their debut EP was released, guitarist Ethan McKenna returns to the band, working seamlessly alongside Thomas and bass player Nick Shaw while the drums are expertly handled by Gabe Seeber of The Kennedy Veil. An exquisitely crafted record produced by Carson Slovak and Grant McFarland (Rivers of Nihil, August Burns Red), Violent Portraits of Doomed Escape is an immersive, visceral experience of which the band can be justifiably proud.