French Extreme Metallers Svart Crown have never been the easiest of propositions, nor the easiest of bands to pigeonhole. Their last offering and creative peak Profane (Listenable) showed that Svart Crown are masters of avant-garde, nausea-inducing Blackened Death Metal. Where, on previous efforts, there was a strong Behemoth worship at play, Profane saw them come much more into their own.
Follow-up Abreaction (Century Media) sees them newly signed to a larger label and thus presenting to a wider audience. The recording of this album comes after the replacement of drummer Nico Muller and guitarist Clement Flandrois with Kevin Paradis and Kevin Verlay respectively, and the new line up oversees perhaps their most hit-and-miss effort to date. Album opener ‘Golden Sacrament’ proves a somewhat off-kilter moment for the band as a more sprawling, doom-laden effort which shows a remarkable shift in tone for the band and, in comparison to what follows, is a jarring opener. Especially considering the following ‘Carcosa’, a much more succinct and full throttle effort, which shows them at their true strength.
Svart Crown have always been more than capable of shifting pace throughout, and ‘Golden Sacrament’ aside their continued ability to do so for the most part is very effective. From the crawling yet brutal ‘Orgasmic Spiritual Ecstacy’, through to the haunting tribal notes that permeate ‘Transsubstantion’, Abreaction further shows that they aren’t afraid to experiment. Where this unfortunately falls down is in an overly long duration which doesn’t completely keep your attention. Indeed, the album feels utterly forgettable for the most part.
Svart Crown have always been one of the most understated and rewarding artists in the extreme metal arena, but Abreaction feels watered down in comparison to previous efforts, ultimately lacking in the white-hot fury and intensity of its predecessor. It still has some great moments and does showcase them as a brave act who, when on firing on all cylinders can show limitless creativity, but this is an album that is lacking and, compared to a particularly strong catalogue preceding it, feels like a mammoth missed opportunity.