Black Crown Initiate
The Wreckage of Stars

First off, many thanks to Paul Shaw, the owner of Blast Head Records, for recommending this band’s debut EP, Song of the Crippled Bull awhile ago. I instantly knew these progressive death metal-playing Pennsylvanians were onto something special, and now the debut full-length cements that fact.

For those lamenting Opeth‘s swing away from death metal and into pure 70s prog pastures, Black Crown Initiate will cure what ails you. They balance the light/dark hues of classic Opeth (My Arms, Your Hearse etc), using big, burly death metal riffage and deep Akerfeldt-ian bellows with subtle injections of melody, dreamy acoustics, and clean croons. It comes across like mid-era Behemoth (robust, militant grooves and deep, commanding growls) meets Opeth (progressive and brutal dichotomies). To these ears, due to a big, modern glossy production, and a sometimes-lurching, sometimes-swaying progressive lean, also a slight hint of the last Extol album – just listen to opener “A Grave Mistake.”

Black Crown Initiate is comprised of a few veterans of US metal, but no one really significant (mainly Nightfire and guys that have served in or live session musicians with the likes of Jungle Rot, Rings of Saturn, Abigail Williams, and Shadows in the Crypt) or noteworthy. This is no supergroup, but this talented collective has come together and created a bright, vibrant progressive death metal record for modern times. It’s got something for everyone: big chunky riffs, a few burly blast beats, some wondrous clean moments, and a overall polish and confidence that belies the band’s relatively recent formation.

It’s also far from the current crop of American Born of Osiris-y, Faceless-y, Fallujah-y techy dent noodle and polish (and there is nothing wrong with that), but rather a much more classically inspired and restrained form of death metal that I could see the likes of Dan Swano creating (see Witherscape). It’s lavish, lush, and full of abundantly textured Opeth-ian moody hues, but with broader death metal strokes. The languid acoustic moments and clean vocals are well placed and short. There are no meandering 10-minute acoustic intros (the largely instrumental/acoustic title track is almost 7 minutes though – be sure to stick around for its last few rousing bars), or wasted self pandering. Instead, acoustic segments are placed perfectly to start, end or join songs together in seamless transitions or overlays. For example, the acoustic lead-in and clean vocals that interact with a blastbeat in all-too-short closer “Linear” is just a stroke of genius.

Other such artful, passionate strokes litter the album, such as the aforementioned and patient opener, “A Great Mistake,” the denser and more aggressive  trio of “The Fractured One,” “Shapes Collapse,” and “The Human Lie Manifest,” the sheer Opeth-on-steroids strum-and-rumble of of “The Malignant,” the busy shreddage and soaring chorus of “Withering Waves.” There’s also my personal favorite “Purge,” where vocalist James Dorton utterly dominates the track’s later stages. My only really minor quibble is that there’s no real signature or go-to track or riff on The Wreckage of Stars that stands out or screams instant classic or commands you to replay it over and over again. However, I’m sure there is one forthcoming in future releases as this band grows and develops even more.

I’ve been in a bit of a reviewing funk/rut lately, burnt out on metal late in the year, but The Wreckage Of Stars is the exactly the kind of release I needed to re-ignite my passion and remind me how awesome metal has been in 2014. Black Crown Initiate is one of the more promising and invigorating new young bands in the modern American metal/death metal scene, and while I imagine that the bigger/major labels will come sniffing around, let’s hope that Black Crown Initiate remain as creative and driven as they do on this stunning debut.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
October 13th, 2014


  1. Commented by: Luke_22

    Cheers for the heads-up Erik. This sounds really solid.

  2. Commented by: Krazykin

    This disc just doesnt want to leave my cd player. Spot on review!

  3. Commented by: Kevin E

    Absolutely amazing album that I just picked up a physical copy of the other day.

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