Progressive death metal has come a long way in the last five years. A combination of higher production standards, a shift towards wider palettes of influences and inspirations, and a diversification of sounds and styles have expanded the genre to new horizons. BLACK CROWN INITIATE, while quite well known amongst the death metal community, are still a relatively new act, debuting with the critically acclaimed EP Song of the Crippled Bull in 2013.
Essentially one single song totalling in over 21 minutes of music, the release has been praised for its musical maturity and scope. In boasting motes of THE FACELESS in a down-tuned extended range vacuum, the band quickly followed with the full length The Wreckage of Stars the following year. While the release followed a heavier lean towards the realms of technical death metal over its more progressive elements, the album was nonetheless a refreshing offering.
Two years on, BLACK CROWN INITIATE have returned with the enigmatically titled Selves We Cannot Forgive. If anything can be taken away from one’s first journey through this latest release, it is that it is a case of poor single choice. The opening track, For Red Cloud, proves a rather dull affair, and unfortunately seems a step in the wrong direction for the band. With its ploddingly awkward drum patterns, bizarre vocal filters, and lack of coherent structure, the track really does not represent the album effectively, rendering it perhaps the weakest of the selection.
Indeed, Selves We Cannot Forgive showcases the vital importance of intelligent track ordering. The songs to follow pick up the pace significantly, while still pushing towards a decidedly more overt progressive leaning, contrasting greatly with the album’s predecessor. Immediately noticeable is the somewhat lengthier compositions, allowing the band’s expansive sound to be fully explored and developed. This leads to some very interesting arrangements, such as Belie the Machine, which progresses from rather sanguine clean vocal sections to vicious atmospheric blast beats and back without sounding jarring or deliberately pompous.
The biggest downfall of the album is ultimately the fact that, while this is indeed death metal, and there are other objectives to be conveyed in the music, the compositions are just not catchy enough to stay with the listener. While the writing is mature, clever, and certainly interesting, the structuring of the album is so dense and seemingly highbrow that it does not vie for one’s attention as some of the release’s contemporaries do. It almost seems that the record is too progressive for its own good, to the point where it rather bizarrely hinders the record from progressing in any meaningful fashion.
Selves We Cannot Forgive offers an interesting and varied selection of music. Though the album certainly has its issues, and there are indeed a few weak tracks throughout, it also boasts its moments of brilliance. Songs like the title track, and Transmit to Disconnect – which treads a near perfected middle-ground between the progressive and the technical – display clear compositional capabilities. It seems a shame that the band did not spend more time honing the rest of the album to such standards. Even so, although Selves We Cannot Forgive may not turn the heads of any new fans, those that enjoyed either of the band’s previous releases will certainly be entertained by this effort.
Selves We Cannot Forgive is out now via SPV.
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