Black Crown Initiate
Violent Portraits of Doomed Escape

To say I am a fan of Black Crown Initiate would probably be an understatement. They were originally scheduled to play a small craft beer festival I attended but had to back out. They were replaced by the mighty Byzantine, so no big deal. Regardless, I am a big fan of their previous full lengths The Wreckage of Stars and Selves We Cannot Forgive. Their new one, Violent Portraits of Doomed Escape is certainly one of my most anticipated albums of the year.

Black Crown Initiate encompass a lot of metal sub genres. Upon their arrival, they were called many things, even djent because of the chorus of “A Great Mistake.” I prefer to just call them progressive metal or frankly, fucking awesome.

The first track. “Invitation,” starts out slow with some clean vocals and guitars, but when those death growls hit, they hit hard… and it doesn’t take long. There are definitely some of the previously mentioned djent influences. The production is tight although admittedly a bit loud, and the clean vocals sound a lot like Ihsahn. This is nothing new, but I didn’t notice it before. Thanks to a colleague for pointing that out. Add in some stellar lead guitar work and you have a monster of an opening track.

After that, “Son of War” is much shorter with quite a nice vocal hook to go along with the blast beats and death growls. It is not to be confused with a track later on the album called “Sun of War.”

I want to briefly mention the short interlude “Bellow,” which sounds much like James Hetfield of Metallica playing Mustakrakish, the Finnish lake troll in Metalocalypse. Also known as Papa Het’s best vocal performance in years. If I ever get the chance to interview him, I’m going to ask his thoughts on one’s lifestyle determining their death style and also how it felt to have lines in a cartoon where he literally just bellowed (there’s your fucking tie-in).

The next track I want to mention is “Holy Silence,” which starts off with a guitar tone reminiscent of Deftones’ “Change (In the House of Flies).” The vocals enter about a minute in, which are of the clean variety. You’re teased with what feels like a build, but it doesn’t get heavy yet. That takes about a minute. While this track is mostly clean vocals, the trade between the death growls and the cleans, including the solid chorus, really carry this fantastic track. They should have ended the album here because the real closing track, “He is the Path,” doesn’t add much and kills the momentum from “Holy Silence.” It also reminds me of “Vicious Lives” from their previous record.

So, we are at the end of the album (and probably the world soon enough). Quality hooks, brutality, progression… What more could you want? This is better than their previous but does not eclipse The Wreckage of Stars. I really like this band, but I feel like everyone who writes this style of progressive death metal will be playing catch up to 2018’s Rivers of Nihil masterpiece Where Owls Know My Name. This includes Black Crown Initiate, but they continue to make really good, maybe even great records and asking a band to live up to another’s masterpiece is just not fair. I have high expectations for these guys and they weren’t quite met, but that’s only because it’s not the greatest album of all time. I thoroughly enjoy this record and with more time to grow, I would not be surprised to see it fighting for a place on my year end list. If you like the (death) style, pick this up. You won’t be disappointed (unless you try to order a bundle from their merch handler because those are sold out).

[Visit the band's website]
Written by J Mays
September 21st, 2020

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