It’s been three years since progressive, technical death metal act Rivers of Nihil released the groundbreaking and critically acclaimed Where Owls Know My Name (Metal Blade Records). Three long years which have seen a global pandemic almost bring the entertainment industry to its knees. However, having already set 2020 aside to concentrate on writing, the Coronavirus outbreak only made minor dents in the Pennsylvanians plans and conceptual album The Work (Metal Blade) is the exhilarating and wonderfully confounding result.
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.
With a lengthy and excitable queue having already formed well before the 7 pm opening time, you can already tell heading to Birmingham on a typically drizzly September evening is going to be well worth the effort. After disappearing for a few words with Rivers of Nihil drummer Jared Klein, I arrive back into the previously empty venue to find it heaving with activity. The bar area is already packed, beer flows freely and merchandise is being handed over at an impressive rate.Continue reading
The dark, broody start to ‘Stench Of The Iron Age’, the first track of Black Crown Initiate’s debut self-released EP Song Of The Crippled Bull, is just long enough to draw you into anticipating something in the post-Rock field. Maybe something in the Anciients ball park. Possibly a little Isis or Light Bearer. Subtle and building, the landscape dramatically shifts as the axe cleaves the coconut, spilling not sweet-milk, but the acerbic demonic, growled incantations of James Dorton, gobs of cancer spat over a cataclysmic riff, like Fleshgod Apocalypse shorn of symphony or classical enhancement, as calamitous drums drive a track that has moved from post-rock firmly into modern technical death metal.
But they’re not done, as the track mutates seamlessly into a ‘Leviathan’ of a clean middle section, disorienting before vomiting forth a closing section worthy of Gorguts’ Colored Sands opus.
All within one song.
If there is a criticism, it is in that schizophrenic nature of the beast, as songs mutate from Meshuggah 8-string chuggery, to Opeth meanderments ‘Ghost She Sends’, from metalcore, to black metal The ‘Mountain Top’, or clip from progressive Ihsahn (Eremita-era) jagged riffs, to sweet, minor chords and clean vocals, to pounding death metal (‘Song of the Crippled Bull’) and just when you think you have a handle on them, like a toddler with ADD they’ve ditched one thing to shout and scream at the next.
But it’s a minor grumble, as each section is expertly crafted, and the individual sea-changes seamlessly performed. The EP works as a long continuous suite due to the nature of their compositions and the regular style changes, each new song beginning from the womb of its’ predecessor.
Black Crown Initiate are neither technical nor progressive nor straight-ahead death metal, nor post-rock, nor-US doom, nor metalcore, nor black metal, nor djent. They are all of these. They are also highly promising and one to watch, for surely it can’t be long until the label sharks are circling and we are treated to a full length release.
Black Crown Initiate on Bandcamp