Crown The Empire

The Resistance: Rise Of The Runaways

Written by: TL on 20/08/2014 23:23:07

In a post-apocalyptic future, an evil, faceless organisation has assumed total fascist control of the world, while a band of colourful, scarf-wearing rogues is the last hope for freedom. And I know what you're thinking: Didn't "Danger Days: The True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys" come out in 2010 already? The concept that Dallas, Texas -based post-hardcore sextet Crown The Empire rehash in this, the second installment in a planned album-trilogy, is indeed cliché and you could suspect it is even calculated. On the other hand I get it. They're young dudes and like most alternative bands, they have a thing or two to say about individuality - And rather than preaching directly they want to do it by telling a story, and with a limited budget, the post-apocalyptic setting is one you can actually portray in music videos without breaking the bank.

So while you may have heard a similar story once or twice before, I want to stop for a minute and appreciate that these dudes are making the effort to deliver a complete product, with music videos, artwork and so on all aligning with an elaborate production full of sinister voice-overs and sounds of sirens and gunfire that all help paint the setting and actually commit to the idea. These guys are understanding that in today's industry there's a fine line between gimmick and identity, and you're nothing without the latter, so for starters, kudos - There's a reason they seem to be thriving where similar contemporary -core bands are stagnating, and the thoroughness of their expression is very likely to be it.

With that said though, listening to the cringe-worthily titled "The Resistance: Rise Of The Runaways", I'll forgive anyone who might squint when trying to decide if the teenage fantasy-novel ambiance is here to lift the great songwriting ideas, or to obscure there not being any. Do not get me wrong, Crown The Empire are solid songwriters compared to a regretable number of bands out there. It's evident for anyone that their formula is still the trusty combination of heavy verses with growled vocals and high strung, theatrical verses - in that they remain similar to latter day Alesana, having not really changed much since the last album about which I said the same. But simultaneously they also still understand how to build a progression within songs, so that instead of you feeling like the heavy parts are totally isolated from the clean sung ones, the elements integrate well, priming the listener to both the leaps and the drops and making it easy for you to feel like singing along or throwing down as the moment calls for.

The problem is how quickly those feelings dissipate, even before each part has made it through its assigned bars. There's knowing the ins and outs of songwriting and then there's following them predictably, and by doing the latter, Crown The Empire make it too easy to notice how ordinary their individual parts are. The choruses are simple, echoing power-chord progressions and the heavy parts are the same typical, down-tuned, abrupt strum-variations you hear from every metalcore band in the world these days. And sticking with the Alesana comparison, vocalists Andy Leo and David Escamilla figure but compently and nothing more, clearly in the shadow of Shawn Milke and Dennis Lee's similar but considerably more charismatic back and forth. If you go one step further and consider My Chemical Romance's similarly themed (but differently genre-affiliated) "Danger Days", it becomes clear that Gerard Way and his group owned and individualised their songs on a level that fit the scope of their concept. The same cannot be said of Crown The Empire, and while it might be an unfair comparison, how can one not make it when the parallels are so clear?

Regardless, what I'm saying is that despite the cinematic tricks, "Rise Of The Runaways" is a pretty ordinary album in its genre. The oddly sugary ballad "Millenia" at track three is moderately catchy, and the single "Machines" is wisely chosen, evoking the most dramatic effect of the album in all parts of the song. But apart from these, the remaining album is largely enjoyably yet forgetable, and it's actually a bit puzzling that a band that is so chorus-aware has been unable to come up with any more memorable ones. But then consider this: "Rise Of The Runaways" is the band's second album in as many years, and the second to be shaped strictly after a predetermined artistic vision. Sounds to me like the recipe for manufacturing pieces of a puzzle while losing focus on the individuality of each piece. And thus we come full circle rather ironically don't we? For isn't it curious, that a band that beats its chest so passionately about indivuality and rebellion, has rather little of either thriving in their musical components? (I mean how about a curveball in form of an unpredictable tempo change or chord progression, just once in a while? How about some more inventive vocal melodies?) But then I guess that's theater - using props to create the illusion of something compelling - and Crown The Empire is nothing if not one of the most theatrical metalcore bands around right now. Musically though, the smoke and mirrors are not enough on here. It would be better if the songwriting could act its part.


Download: Machines, Millenia
For The Fans Of: Alesana, Set It Off, We Came As Romans, Escape The Fate

Release date 19.06.2014
Rise Records

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