Svart Crown

Wolves Among The Ashes

Written by: AP on 14/11/2020 17:11:12

Svart Crown belongs to a rare breed of metal bands that succeed, with each impending album, to keep their fans guessing. While the Provençal outfit is rooted in blackened death metal, they have never set constraints on the breadth of their influences, nor on the scope of their creativity — and as such it was nigh impossible to establish any real expectations for “Wolves Among the Ashes”, the band’s fifth and latest album. The veritable revolving doors that is the group’s line-up exacerbates this fact, as all of the musicians around frontman Jean-Baptiste Le Bail were once again replaced after the touring cycle for 2017’s “Abreaction” came to an end. Whether it is his desire for a clean slate or something less amicable that drives the exchange, no one seems to know. But the fact remains that the only thing I felt sure about when the new record dropped was that it was going to keep me teetering on my toes for the entire 40 minutes that it lasts.

You could be forgiven for allowing yourself to be deceived by the first two tracks, the introductory piece “They Will Not Take Our Death in Vain” and the following “Thermageddon”, both of which merely sound like an expansion on the dissonant style of “Abreaction”. But as soon as the tempo is slowed, and the returning guitarist Clément Flandrois emerges from the chaos with a clean voice not unlike that of Cattle Decapitation frontman Travis Ryan’s, it becomes obvious that the spirit of this band remains completely opposed to treading water. It is the first of many courtships with influences far beyond blackened death metal that happen on this album, and although the innovative riffs, abrupt rhythm shifts and aberrant song structures that have been a staple of Svart Crown’s sound signature since the beginning still persist here, they have been toned down somewhat in favour of… well, more accessible elements. Le Bail has never tried to hide the fact that Behemoth is a huge influence on him vocally as well as ideologically, and given that Nergal steered his band toward a more mainstream destination on their latest album, 2018’s “I Loved You at Your Darkest”, it is not exactly surprising that Svart Crown has undergone a similar transition on “Wolves Among the Ashes”.

Songs like “Art of Obedience” and “Blessed Be the Fools” are literally inundated with fingerprints from the Polish icons, from the rhapsodic bombast of the former’s crescendo to the churchly atmosphere (complete with a Gregorian choir) that reigns over the latter’s reverberating instrumentation. Yet in spite of the strong undercurrent of Behemoth in both of these tracks, one cannot accuse Svart Crown of shameless idolatry; the band may be standing on the shoulders of giants but their willingness to forage from far and wide is also one of their strongest assets. “Wolves Among the Ashes” is a veritable miasma of different subgenres of metal, all wrapped into an atmosphere and tone that are unmistakably Svart Crown’s, yet also rendering the album an extremely diverse listening experience. None of the eight tracks really resemble one another, with “At the Altar of Beauty” for instance presenting an intense and frostbitten soundscape reminiscent of Gorgoroth, only for a stench of the NOLA scene to arise from subdued baritone singing against a doom-bluesy instrumental backdrop in the following “Down to Nowhere”. And while your “huh?” face is still active, Le Bail & co. switch gears again and deliver irresistible, jagged death metal grooves in the style of Gojira on the subsequent “Exoria”.

Indeed — Le Bail remains unquenched in his thirst for new flavours and touches to add to his palette, which means that there is no lack of variety across the eight tracks that comprise “Wolves Among the Ashes”. It is a record that further cements Svart Crown as one of the most forward thinking bands in the death metal genre, even if those truly immortal moments are still missing from the end result. It is an album that wows the listener by virtue of the technical proficiency and multitude of ideas on offer — but in my case at least, it did also leave me feeling somewhat unfulfilled, like that final edge is still missing from this dark, technical and innovative piece of death metal.

7

Download: Art of Obedience, At the Altar of Beauty, Exoria
For the fans of: Behemoth, Clients, Hate, Ulcerate
Listen: Facebook

Release date 07.02.2020
Century Media

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