Review Summary: A triumphant first chapter for the next big thing in progressive death metal.
Life has to be great for the guys in Black Crown Initiate right now. In only a year's time, they went from an unsigned band grinding it out in the Pennsylvania metal scene to a signed band that is landing nationwide tours with the likes of Behemoth, Fleshgod Apocalypse and Unearth. If their debut full-length The Wreckage of Stars is any indicator; this is the only beginning of a very bright future for Black Crown Initiate.
What immediately sticks out about The Wreckage of Stars is how polished it is for a debut album. It's incredibly hard to believe after listening to The Wreckage of Stars that Black Crown Initiate has only been together since 2012. There aren't too many bands that sound this tight on their third or fourth album, let alone their first one. These guys are an incredibly well-oiled unit that have developed one of hell a rapport with one another with in practically no time at all, and this level of cohesion is a large part of what makes The Wreckage of Stars such a success.
Musically, this is a far more death metal-oriented release than their 2013 EP Song for the Crippled Bull. The more straight-up heavy vibe of this record becomes apparent pretty early on with tracks like "The Fractured One", "This Human Lie Manifest" and "To the Eye that Lead You". Every single one of these tracks are efficient, relatively technical affairs that perfectly set the energetic and pummeling tempo that serves as the backbone of this album, The pure death metal sections on this record bring out two of Black Crown Initiate's greatest assets as a band: the vicious screams of James Horton and spastic drumming of Jesse Beahler. Horton's near-perfect guttural lows give each song a delightfully sinister edge while Beahler's wild fills and ridiculously fast double bass is very reminiscent of ex-Black Dahlia Murder skinsman (and one of my personal favorite drummers) Shannon Lucas. There are moments where the guitars become trite, but these songs never lose a ton of momentum thanks to the phenomenal performances from Horton and Beahler.
The Wreckage of Stars may be heavier than Song for the Crippled Bull, but just like its predecessor, its finest moments come when the progressive metal elements come into the fold. Don't get me wrong, these guys are no slouches when it comes to pure, unadulterated brutality, but they are at their absolute best when they throw some melody and clean vocals into the mix. Lead single "Withering Waves" is the best song these guys have put out in their brief career so far. The clean-sung chorus and melodic guitar-driven bridge are absolutely stirring and make the heavier sections that much more affective. "Purge", "A Great Mistake" and "Shape's Collapse" continue the trend with prominent acoustic guitar and tasteful clean vocal lines that perfectly accentuate the crushing, groove-heavy death metal that takes up the other portions of the album. When Black Crown Initiate is channeling their inner Blackwater Park/Deliverance-era Opeth, they are an absolute force in progressive death metal.
The Wreckage of Stars is a damn fine first full-length effort from Black Crown Initiate. It's not exactly a game changer, but there's more than enough gorgeous melodies and crushing riffs here to get any progressive death metal fan salivating. The fact that these guys were able to secure a deal with an emerging powerhouse label in E1 with only a single EP to their name tells you a lot about how talented they are, and how much potential there is for them in the years to come. With a lineup that's already this fluid in its infancy, the possibilities for the future of Black Crown Initiate are incredibly exciting to say the least.