Crown Lands
Odyssey Vol. I

This is, if you haven’t figured it out by now, a site dedicated primarily to reviewing heavy metal music in all its various forms. Death, Black, Thrash, Grind, Power, blah blah blah blah, pretty much all are welcome here with open ears and arms. It’s safe to say that, personal stylistic preferences aside, all of us here would proudly call ourselves metalheads, and we generally cater our reviews to please other metalheads. Right? Right.

But sometimes, we’ll stumble across something that just seems like its too big for Metal. Or Rock, or Pop, or Hip-Hop or any one particular genre for that matter. Something that, truly, EVERYONE should take the time to listen to, become familiar with. Sure, I’d love everyone to love metal! But you and I both know that’s just not a realistic possibility.  But this Canadian Prog duo, Crown Lands? Fuck me. Everyone can, and absolutely should get in on this.

If you’re a metalhead of a certain age, who grew up in the earlier stages of metal’s creation, you should have no problem falling into Odyssey. The band certainly follows the Prog tradition of fellow countrymen Rush, along with Camel and others, but also take a great deal of cues from the likes of Jimmy Hendrix, The Who and a heavy dose of Led Zepplin – Singer and drummer Cody Bowles sure as hell sounds very similar to Robert Plant – and it’s all woven together with plenty of influence from Bowles’ Native Mi’kmaq heritage. More than anything, this influence is found thematically, particularly on tracks like the trio of “Mountain,” “End of the Road” and “White Buffalo,” which, the band explains, are about this history of what has happened to Indigenous peoples of Canada, what is happening right now, and the hope of future reclamation (the name Crown Land itself in reference to the desire to reclaim Canadian “crown land” – land held by the government that was largely stolen from First Nations Indigenous peoples). These tracks, along with the blistering “Right Way Back” represent the album’s more relatively straight-forward, catchy-as-all-fuck rock approach, featuring a bevvy of superb, blues-inspired riffs that are an easier add to anyone throwing together a casual listening playlist. “White Buffalo,” especially, features the kind of upbeat, swagger-filled guitars that would be a welcome way to kickstart your commute to work, school or wherever. An absolute earworm.

On the flip side, the band is also flexing the living hell out of their prog writing chops, building a storyline featuring a character known simply as “Queen,” featured in the incredibly produced video for the epic, impressive Rush-meets-Coheed and Cambria track “Context: Fearless Pt. I” (go to Youtube now and look for it.) I’d have included that video in this write-up, but instead chose the live recording to showcase one critically important piece of the Odyssey puzzle – one which properly puts how impressive this album is in context: This is a live-recorded album. And no, the band isn’t filling in the gaps with studio musicians, it’s just the two of them – Bowles and guitarist/bassist/keyboardist Kevin Comeau – which, when you listen to the depth of sound coming through your headphones, is just friggin’ mind-blowing. Check out the above video to watch these two at work! Bowles’ drumming alone is impressive, and while it may not be a Neal Peart–level masterclass, Neal Peart never had to do his thing while throwing down powerful, nuanced vocal lines like this. And some of the interplay between Bowles and Comeau, who he himself is juggling between laying down guitars, killer bass lines, and using a pedalboard to layer in some super effective keys (which sorta act as a super fuzzy bass backbone while he’s playing guitar), is literally making my head hurt just trying to think about. I’m exhausted.

Like the best of history’s Prog Rock bands, Crown Lands has proven on Odyssey that they can deliver the best of both worlds – super catchy rock tracks you could easily find on the radio, along with the epic compositions that demand (and deserve) much more of your time and attention. This band was not on my radar before now, but having now done a quick once-over of their back catalog, Odyssey is a gigantic leap forward from what was before a pretty straightforward Blues Rock band. And it’s well-worth taking the dive into the Crown Lands experience! I literally just spent about 3 hours falling into interesting factoids and rabbit holes based just on learning more about Cody Bowles’ cultural heritage, and their identification as Two-Spirit (far too complex to even get into here – just go do your own reading. It’s a FASCINATING subject). Sometimes you discover something and know immediately it’s truly special, and I wholeheartedly believe this to be true with Crown Lands. I dunno if this is “Metal,” maybe “Metal-adjacent” at best, but whatever. Keep on the lookout for this duo – they’re going to do some big things.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Steve K
December 21st, 2021

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