There are some genuinely grinding, aggressive moments tucked away in the 11 tunes that comprise The Crown‘s early 2015 release, Death is Not Dead. These Swedish extreme metal veterans have reconvened to bring their fans some more fairly melodic, high speed death-thrash as only they can. Death is Not Dead marks the band’s ninth studio album and 25th anniversary, and seems to encompass many of the stylistic elements that it’s about.
Nicely engineered, mixed and mastered, the disc is fairly metal-by-the-numbers: a great example of how a “genre average”, middle of the road disc ought to sound. Fairly de-facto for the genre, it doesn’t really seek to expand the framework already in place… but it doesn’t have to. Well-constructed songs with ‘just enough melody’ are exciting, readily consumable fare for most aficionados of this particular style. While there are some subtly humorous touches (like the album title), it’s not a self-parody or hyperbolic like some ‘current’ releases from the genre tend to be.
Vocally, you’ve got your angry Viking growling and screaming his head off, about anti-religious and other topics. What’s not to like? What jumps immediately is the quality of the guitar solo work. Nicely arranged, the two-part and layered harmony often interweaves to sinuous, acrobatic squealing, finger-tapping, and just plain crazy-fast flexibility. Think of highly accomplished thrash metal type guitar solos stamped into a growly death metal framework and you’re pretty close. Moderate distortion, at least for Swedish death metal, seems to allow for greater clarity in riff construction and delivery. If it’s one element that holds attention regardless of song and throughout the album, it’s the guitar playing. Tempos range from fairly relaxed mids to extreme blasts, and the average is faster then anything you’ll hear on the radio in 20 years. The album has a weird, fairly ‘tappy’ drum sound, and the low end seems to have been a bit buried or “mixed out”, at least at lower volume. The (slightly) diminished low end detracts slightly from the songs’ overall power “on disc”, but not their aggression: a listener can picture how the songs might sound in the typically more bass-heavy live setting. These tunes are going to crush.
How are the songs? “Herd of Swine” courts “old school” death metal and grindcore’s speed and filth. “Ride To Ruin” has a punk-influenced verse, making it stand out from the deathy pack. The acoustic guitar introduction on the instrumental “Meduseld” feels like one of those ‘you know it’s going to blaze away sometime soon’ teasers… and it does. Reminiscent of fellow Swedes Manegarm with it’s folksy fiddle overlay, “Meduseld” doesn’t jump right in to high speed craziness found on the remainder of the album, but it does get crunchy.
There’s a rawness, a ragged edge on these tunes, coupled with a slicing punchiness, that fans of death metal are going to appreciate. It’s a headbanger, if a fast one. Death is Not Dead is recommended for fans of Scandinavian extreme metal and The Crown especially. Collectors and those who are starting their journey with the band with their latest release will appreciate all of the pounding nuances it has to offer.
Eternal (Paradise Lost cover)
Struck By Lightning
Speed Kills (Full Moon Ahead)
Herd Of Swine
Ride To Ruin
Johan Lindstran – Vocals
Robin Sorgvist – Lead Guitar
Marko Tervonen – Rhythm Guitar
Magnus Olsfelt – Bass Guitar
Henrik Axelsson – Drums