Review Summary: Who will you follow when the world fades to the grey?
Since their inception, Crown the Empire seemed like a band that had shortchanged themselves when it came to reaching their full potential. Their penchant for catchy, melodic hooks and epic storytelling was consistently brought down by their tendency for following the Rise-core cookie cutter formula of screamed verse-sung chorus-screamed verse-breakdown-sung chorus-repeat. While debut full-length The Fallout
had many strong suits to boast of, such as stadium-sized production values and the addition of the capable Dave Escamilla on unclean vocals to complement Andy Leo’s soaring cleans, the record was never quite as entertaining as it could be due to the lack of variety in the song structures, and the feeling that the epic story the band was trying to tell was ill-suited to chugging breakdowns and generic songwriting. In short, while the band was aiming for the stars on their previous release, they ended up falling short as just another mainstream metalcore band. Luckily, it only took one album cycle for everything to change…
The Resistance: Rise of the Runaways
is the album that finally sees the group utilizing much of their untapped talent. The introductory track, “Call to Arms (Act I)” shows that the band’s penchant for blockbuster concepts is alive and well, with a spoken-word monologue by the album’s villain, lecturing on the failures of freedom. While the occasional spoken-word sections peppered throughout the record are admittedly corny, this is essentially a blockbuster action movie in album form… cheesiness comes with the territory. This is abundantly clear once we reach the album’s first real song (and lead single), “Initiation”. While it is standard CTE fare, with primarily screamed verses followed by a catchy chorus, the album’s concept is prominent throughout, a marked change from the scattershot storytelling approach of Fallout
. Those expecting a rehash of the debut, however, will be silenced by “Millennia”, an anthemic power ballad with an extremely catchy singalong chorus that is unlike anything the band has done before, with nary a breakdown in sight. “Millennia” is a clear standout, but it is also an indicator of the varied musicianship and improved songwriting throughout the album.
sees the band dabbling in orchestral grandiosity, electronica and stadium anthems in equal measure. It is clear that the band’s ambitions exceed the modern metalcore scene, and that they aspire to be a sort of rallying point for angsty teens across the country still mourning the death of My Chemical Romance. And the most surprising aspect of Rise of the Runaways
is that the band largely succeeds in these lofty ambitions. The record features three shorter “segue” tracks, including standout “Satellites (Act III)”, which serve to heighten the mood and sense of epic scale. Elsewhere, “Machines” sees the band lamenting the loss of personal privacy to technology over an electronica-tinged mid-tempo track, and “Mnstr” and “Bloodlines” serve to showcase the growing confidence of David Escamilla as a co-frontman alongside founding vocalist Leo. But the record is at its finest when it indulges its widescreen ambitions, such as on the pounding, anthemic title track “Rise of the Runaways”, which prominently features Escamilla’s cleans in the chorus. The album closes with the third part in the “Johnny” series: “Johnny’s Rebellion”. The song seems to start on an optimistic note before quickly taking a dark turn, as the record’s titular resistance movement is in shambles. The band throws everything into the nearly 7-minute finale, including string sections, a return to the breakdowns of the bands early days and a catchy chorus. The song ends on a self-referential note as Leo belts out the chorus to the first part in the song suite, “Johnny Ringo”. While detractors are certain to claim that it is far too early for this band to pull a Beatles moment, The Resistance
proves that Crown the Empire have the ambition and guts to go all-in on their vision of taking a blend of emotionally-charged metal and post-hardcore to stadium-sized audiences… and as the band has gone from playing the smallest stage on the Vans Warped Tour to playing main stages across America in the space of a year, this vision doesn’t seem too far-fetched.