Svart Crown


Written by: AP on 30/12/2017 11:34:05

Technical death metal is a precariously difficult genre to master. Not only does it require exceptional skill from the musicians involved, it also asks a lot of the listener, on account of its marrying the brutal with the complex. Svart Crown has been seeking to perfect the formula since emerging out of the French resort town of Nice in 2004, issuing a demo and three studio albums, none of which have succeeded in becoming staples of the genre, since then. With this fourth and latest outing, entitled “Abreaction”, however, the band moves closer to its objective of becoming a leading force within the scene by upping the intensity and delivering tracks that are compositionally sounder than almost all of their predecessors.

At 54 minutes of jagged riffs and syncopated rhythms, the album is a lot to swallow though, and as such, those without an existing disposition to Svart Crown’s flavour of extreme metal are unlikely to last through the entire duration. Patient listeners, on the other hand, will be pummelled, frightened, mesmerised and ultimately struck with awe by the maelstrom which the Frenchmen have assembled. Like their brethren in Ulcerate, Svart Crown relies on atmosphere to tie their myriad ideas together; the soundscape is rife with eerie ringing chords, ominous chanting and whispers, and additional percussion instruments such as tambourine, while the band has also invested heavily in instrumental passages that serve to build and release tension within and in between the songs. But where Ulcerate’s most recent outing, “Shrines of Paralysis”, was more esoteric than sinister, “Abreaction” is black through and through, evoking similar sensations as Behemoth’s 2014 masterpiece, “The Satanist”. Indeed, it is tempting to believe that said album might have been a significant influence on Svart Crown when the quartet was mapping out the direction in which to take their new material. Certainly the opening track, “Golden Sacrament”, seems to lend some gravity to the suggestion, as it conjures bursts of dissonant guitar and blastbeat from its slow, unsettling foundation.

In general, slow (or at least slower) and unsettling are the two words that best reflect how “Abreaction” stands apart from the band’s previous outing, 2013’s “Profane” — there is much more to it now than the merciless bludgeoning and flashes of instrumental wizardry of old. The serpentine guitar riffs of Jean-Baptiste Le Bail and Kevin Verlay morph into disturbing squeals and cascades of tremolo in the standout “Nganda”, while blastbeats are pushed to the side by feverish tribal rhythms from drummer Kévin Paradis in “Emphatic Illusion”. Le Bail’s savage growls touch upon cleanly sung lines as the cacophonous, next-level onslaught of “Carcosa” gives way to atmospheric doom stylings in “The Pact: to the Devil His Due”. And those who prefer their technical death metal without head nor tail may still revel in the likes of “Upon This Intimate Madness”, which threatens to fold into itself before a rare headbanging groove takes over in the second half. With so many different ideas and influences at large, “Abreaction” thus enjoys a degree of dynamism that the progenitors of this genre (Nile, Suffocation et al.) simply never saw as necessary and the end product is one of the most intense and atmospheric records that death metal has seen this year.

One thing that Svart Crown still needs to study, however, is generating lasting value. The technical prowess of each musicians is astounding, and as a result, the band’s dizzying constructs invariably impress the moment they are heard. But it is not odd time signatures and tonal aberrations that the human mind remembers as striking afterwards. Indeed, “Abreaction” suffers from a pressing lack of hooks which makes it quite an exhausting listening experience, even if one must commend the band for the atmosphere they conjure, and for the breathtaking intensity with which each song is played.


Download: Carcosa, The Pact: to the Devil His Due, Upon This Intimate Madness, Nganda
For the fans of: Behemoth, Deathspell Omega, Gorguts, Ulcerate
Listen: Facebook

Release date 03.03.2017
Century Media Records

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