Review Summary: A classic case of don't judge a book by its cover, the album art may be awful, but what's inside may surprise you.
Though the label of Rise Records is very off-putting to just about anyone who is not a crazy fangirl, Crown the Empire are undoubtedly the most talented band on their roster. Glimpses of this were apparent in their debut album The Fallout, but the band had yet to tap into the potential they possessed to become more than just another brick on the long-winding path of metalcore bands. Their sophomore effort, The Resistance: Rise of the Runaways, finally is able to showcase what separates Crown the Empire from their peers.
The most notable feature that Crown the Empire has showcased since their inception is their affinity for the very theatrical. "Call To Arms (Act I)" makes this apparent from the very get go, as a very deep and distorted voice gives a speech to the "citizens of the new fallout". Harmonizing clean vocals accompanied by a snare drum and a rising symphonic background are then hammered by the ferocious vocals of co-frontman David Escamilla and a barrage of guitars and drumming. "Initiation" is the perfect title for the first full-length song on the album. Though the computer voice in the beginning sounds like something out of a Divergent or Hunger Games film, the song nevertheless provides the spark the album needs to grab the listener's attention. From the very beginning, it is evident that there is a much more dense soundscape that features more than just trademark Rise-core chugging. A pleasant surprise, this is a trend that is kept throughout most of the album. Of course there are moments of inconsistency, such as the placement of "Millennia". Though the song features sincere lyrics, showcases Andy Leo's excellent vocalscape, and contains a nice guitar solo, it really kills the tempo that the predecessor set. However, the song does transition nicely into "Machines", as the song builds up until David lets out a scream and is met with a crescendo that effectively brings the energy back. Changing the song structures up a bit was a pleasant surprise that allowed most of the songs not to blend in with each other.
"Maniacal Me" is a perfect example of this, as it begins with the sort of fast-paced tone we would expect a punk or hardcore song to begin with. Thanks to another memorable beginning, one of the most distinct songs on the album is "MNSTR". Escamilla seemingly takes a page out of Corey Taylor's playbook, as the intro vocals sound similar to something from an early Slipknot album. It really gives the song its own identity and coincides with the angry lyrics very well. Unfortunately, it seems they are still somewhat hampered by habits of the past, as the vocals are backed by generic chugging. The need of throwing a singing chorus in also kind of kills the very heavy and angry tone the song had set. Some songs such as "Second Thoughts" sound close to something off of their previous album, but nevertheless has a little more mature sound this time around. This is mainly evident from the fact that the instrumentation is not just used as filler. Some songs such as the title track, "Rise of the Runaways", feature some short but nicely executed solos. Perhaps the most notable feature of the album is the use of the interludes such as at the end of "The Phoenix Reborn", which is a great song in its own right might I add. At the end, we hear what appears to be a battle ensuing, and the sound of someone being shot and falling to the ground. The sound of flat-lining is heard with a 21 gun salute coming shortly after. Due to the final song's title, we soon figure out that the dead is the beloved CTE storyline character Johnny! The song starts off very optimistic with him ascending to heaven, only to fall back down into the depths of hell where he has to take on the devil himself. "Johnny's Rebellion" could not be a more perfect ending, as it is an epic culmination of everything Crown The Empire has to offer including the signature theatrics the band is known for.
With their sophomore album, Crown The Empire shows us that they really want to improve and mature as a band. They still showcased some of the breakdowns and theatrics they are known for, but they were done in a controllable manner that actually added to the tracks and not coming off as forced or misplaced. The use of interludes really added to the atmosphere of the album. Features like those and the use of just a fuller instrumental sound in general show that the band wants to try and branch out while still staying loyal to their current fanbase. Maybe the death of Johnny is a sign of trying to slowly kill old habits. With the release of The Resistance: Rise of the Runaways, Crown The Empire show that they want to standout among their peers, and they succeeded in doing so.