Review Summary: Solid progressive death metal that leaves a very good first impression, but with further listening, shows a lack of something that would make them more memorable.
Black Crown Initiate formed in late 2012 with the mission to make heavy, crushing, death metal with progressive elements and astounding musical technicality and showmanship. They released this EP as a mission statement of sorts, using deep 8-string guitars, smashing, heavy drums and use of both clean and harsh singing. “Song Of The Crippled Bull” succeeded in bringing the band from unknown status and turning them into what many consider one of the brightest futures of progressive metal.
Since this is an EP with only four tracks, one might think that there isn’t much content to be analyzed. And this is true by full length standards, but for an EP, this record contains a lot of disparate content, one of its main qualities. The first song “Stench of the Iron Age” is definitely the most memorable, and is one of the heaviest songs I have ever heard. Not the fastest song, but the slower parts are extremely heavy with the aforementioned 8-string guitars chugging away frantically, and the triggered double bass pedals working with blasting efficiency. This leaves little to be desired when it comes to metallic heaviness, and gives the listener barely any time to catch his breath, save the melodic interlude in the middle of “Ghost She Sends”.
The main issue with this EP is that its sound is so extremely polished, that it almost sounds overproduced. This is very common with progressive metal music, and I don’t usually have a problem with it, but the fact is that this EP has song structures that rely too heavily on the blasting “djent” (palm muted) guitar sound coupled with very fast double bass drumming that it begins to be hard to not lose interest in some of the tracks. “Ghost She Sends” is the main culprit here, with the majority of the song just blasting away, with vocals on top screaming the song title over and over. Not a bad song by any means, and the melodic respite in the middle is very much needed to tie into the next half of the EP. The next song “The Mountain Top” is the best one here, mainly because of the incredible vocal performance, and a songwriting that is short, but very sweet. It succeeds fantastically in changing up between melodic singing, and crushing blast beats coupled with harsh growling, and then smoothly leading into the closer. All of the songs here are full songs, with no instrumentals, even with the last song, which vocally, just repeats the first line of the first track and close the EP in a heavier, but similar way it started.
Overall, a very solid and strong release by a band that shows much promise, and only a few easily remedied things that hold it back from being something truly special. The songwriting is solid, and more importantly doesn’t rely on the same themes but shows disparity and talent. A very good start for an up and coming metal band, and a promising release that shows what they are capable of becoming.