Review Summary: Svart Crown aren't reinventing the wheel, they're just finding new ways to break you on it.
There are bands that try
to be heavy, and then there are bands that just are
. Svart Crown fall into the second category. The French foursome blend Death and Black metal in a tooth-rattling vortex, their sound falling somewhere between the crushing onslaught of Behemoth and the Sophisticated Black Metal Art of Emperor. Their second effort, Witnessing the Fall
is largely driven by rumbling tremolo riffs and thunderous drumming, its ten songs tied together by themes of ancient Rome and “humanity in perdition”. While by no means the first to combine their two principle genres, Svart Crown – whose name translates to “Black Crown” and is pronounced as it looks – manage to create their own voice and vary their songwriting enough to make Witnessing
worth hearing out.
“Where the Light Ends” opens the album with a feeling like black clouds gathering on the horizon; staccato tom rolls trade off with rising guitar trills, ushering in the brutal assault of “Colosseum”. Vocalist JB LeBail’s vocals include Nergal-style growls, a more traditional black metal rasp, and occasional semi-intelligible bellowing (think Emperor’s “Al Svartr”). His use of all three is a crucial part of Svart Crown’s sound, giving it multiple facets throughout the album. Even the short inhale before “Dogs of God” creates a moment of suspense before the monumental opening riff. It’s not all about heaviness, either; each song has breaks and turns that increase their listenability without sacrificing the overall momentum. As with most albums of its ilk, there are still moments of “how many tracks just went by?”, but with a few listens, each song begins to reveal its own character.
’s production is generally clear, the instruments and vocals here are tightly entwined and founded on the prominent drumming, which often blasts past 200 beats per minute without losing clarity. While the instrumentation is top-notch, the band’s sound doesn’t feel mechanized like a lot of modern extreme metal. There’s an old-school swagger to the music, as if Svart Crown spent a night jamming to Like An Everflowing Stream
before recording. Epic closer “Of Sulphur and Fire” gives some space to breathe, foregoing incessant pounding and spending much of its eight minutes building up to the final vamp with sparse, dissonant guitar licks that bring to mind Mastodon’s “Trilobite”. The album’s peak is the duo of “Into a Demential Sea” and “An Eternal Descent”, which include multiple moods and atmospheres, from the former’s brooding instrumental break to the latter’s runaway-train climax.
Svart Crown are working with a formula that’s been used before, but have a willingness to experiment and plenty of talent to set them apart from the pack. Witnessing the Fall
is definitely a step up from their debut as the band have begun to come into their own. There are some tracks that you won’t immediately remember and others that haven’t quite grown out of the shadow of Behemoth, but overall there’s a lot to like. As a whole, Svart Crown’s sophomore effort is a gleefully suffocating affair that should keep your horns up and leave your neck sore in the morning. Like all the best death metal, it just hurts so good.
An Eternal Descent
Into A Demential Sea