Review Summary: Crown The Empire attempt to break out of the realm of generic metalcore and into arena-ready, blockbuster album territory - but succeed only marginally.
As the title of the album would suggest – The Resistance: Rise of The Runaways
is a concept album and the sophomore full-length production from Texas metalcore outfit Crown The Empire.
Rise of The Runaways
follows the story of a Runaway - an individual resisting against the unknown villain seeking to strip the residents of the ‘New Fallout’ of their freedom and identity. This concept is described by the album’s annoyingly long spoken word intro.
Unfortunately for Crown The Empire, there are two fairly obvious oversights to the album and its concept. The first being that the concept is glaringly similar to an album released by one of the band’s peers – Wretched and Divine: The Story of the Wild Ones
by Black Veil Brides - which, in turn is very similar the concept of many other works in history. The second misstep by the band is much simpler. Why is a band named ‘Crown The Empire’
making an album about ‘resistance’ and ‘individuality’" An empire is defined as an extensive group of states or countries under a single supreme authority. Without even listening to the album yet, a well-informed consumer can immediately spot this complete lack of creative cohesion – more than likely on the part of the producer – not the band itself.
Onto the music.
Or maybe not just yet. A drawn out intro starts the album off on a sour note, the unnamed bad guy drones on about humanity’s failures - while the listener is left most likely yearning for the music to just start already.
That very wish is granted with the opening track – the infectious and high-energy ‘Initiation’. ‘Initiation’ is the best track to be found on the album – not a good sign for the remainder of a 50 minute, 13 track album. Even the best track on the album is not without its shortcomings: a voice over a PA system interjects too much with nonsense, and an air-raid siren heard a few times during the runtime is only the first of many failed attempts to be atmospheric throughout the album. ‘Initiation’ boasts a very catchy chorus and is the first example of the superb vocals of Crown The Empire. Andy Leo and David Escamilla are two very talented vocalists. They solo often to progress the tracks along, and their combination yields a powerful result. The vocals take center-stage on this Joey Sturgis production. As for the rest of the band, they're all pretty easily lost in the mix of all that is going on in Rise of The Runaways
. Between all the atmospheric keyboard and electronic effects combined with just how vocally focused the album is made, it'd be hard to blame a listener for losing track of the guitarists and drummer who do little to stand out.
Concept albums are touchy beasts. Stick to the concept too much, and it becomes overbearing. Follow it too loosely, and the album feels too scattered. ‘Millennia’ is a perfect example of this shortcoming. While not a bad track overall, it immediately follows the concept-heavy ‘Initiation’. This slower song, completely devoid of screamed vocals, has little to no trace of the original idea – save for a few mentions of the word ‘runaway’ here and there. ‘Machines’ and ‘MNSTR’ are both decent cuts that follow the very out-of-place ‘Millennia’, ‘Machines’ has perhaps the strongest chorus on the album, and ‘MNSTR’ showcases Escamilla’s fantastic screamed vocals. ‘Satellites’ continues the trend of keeping an ‘epic’ sound to the album, but sadly comes off more annoying than celestial.
There is a commonly held belief by music enthusiasts that the title track of an album should be one of the strongest on the album. This is not the case for ‘Rise of The Runaways’. It suffers from the same affliction that plagues the rest of the album – great vocals but lackluster otherwise. There is a pretty short yet enjoyable breakdown overlaid with a guitar solo here, immediately countered by the very cheesy hook:
“Run, run, running,
I keep running,
I keep on running away!”
‘The Phoenix Reborn’ – the penultimate song of the album, serves the purpose to bring it all to a finale. It does so well, progressing the story (that was lost again in the previous tracks) to an end. It takes its time doing so, clocking in at just under 6 minutes. The soaring choruses end with a heavy breakdown – followed by the sounds a fierce battle. Fast, deep breaths of a Runaway are heard over the immense firefight – an explosion pierces his ears, yet he continues on. The Runaway keeps his sprint until a bullet stops him dead in his tracks. An abrupt, dark, yet perfect climax to the album.
Except there’s one more track. ‘Johnny’s Rebellion’ is the album's 7-minute long closer. It starts off with an ethereal vibe – only to be shockingly dragged back down to sea level after just a few seconds. One of the albums very few wins is this moment - but only this very moment - as the song drags on for far too long and just isn't very interesting at all. Finally, this convoluted rollercoaster of an album has come to an end. However, there is no shortage of unanswered questions thanks to the extremely long and unnecessary closer. Were the Runaways the bad guys after all" Was the whole thing just a dream" Who won"
Rise of The Runaways
is somewhat enjoyable in some small sections but extremely messy, leaving the listener with a sense of relief that it’s over. Quite a few of the songs on Rise of The Runaways
sound extremely similar. The middle section of the album only has one track that stands out amongst the other mostly forgettable ones. Furthermore, if the listener had a certain objection to a segment, other tracks on the album are bound to be repeat offenders. There are great vocals to be found throughout, but the frequent abandonment of the story is jarring when it’s picked back up suddenly, and while the attempt to sound different is respectable, the atmospheric and cinematic feel to the album falls short.