The Crown
Cobra Speed Venom

Back in 1999 Sweden’s, The Crown carved a much loved niche in my heart with their debut, Hell is Here (yes, I know that the band had two previous full-lengths under the Crown of Thorns moniker). Extreme metal was in a little bit of a weird state, with lots of genre transitioning seemingly taking place worldwide. American(ized) death metal had fallen into a bit of redundancy with a been there, done that attitude from fans who had been faithful followers since the late ’80’s/early ’90’s (thankfully, bands such as Nile, Gorguts, and Formulas-era Morbid Angel had begun to right the North American death metal ship). European death metal had traded d-beats for melodicism and the second wave of black metal was in full force thanks to Emperor, Immortal, Dimmu Borgir, Naglfar, and the likes of, not to metion power metal and its popular rise.

Through all of the changes taking place in the metal climate, one group was forging a different path. A path where everything collided and coalesced into original magnificence, bringing the ferocious fervor of death, the seething viciousness of black, the stunning ability and beauty akin to melodicism, and a plain piss and vinegar/fuck you attitude, reminiscent of the best of the rock ‘n roll outlaws of the ages. The Crown was simply, the perfect personification of it all. Hell is Here and follow-up Deathrace King were metal milestones at the most, and ass kicking albums at the very least. Yet nothing gold can stay, and eventually The Crown called it a day after releasing four albums (one with the infamous Tomas Lindberg, Crowned in Terror…later re-recorded with original vocalist, Johan Lindstrand, Crowned Unholy).

Time has a way of meding things though, so it was no surprise that The Crown ended up reforming, releasing two more full-lengths with 2010’s Doomsday King, featuring new vocalist, Jonas Stalhammar, and 2015’s Death is Not Dead, which brought back original throat shredder, Johan Linstrand, for the second time. While it was good to have The Crown back at it, something about their two “comeback” albums just didn’t quite hit me in the feels like they used to, and I admittedly have shyed away from delving too hard into those releases. Yet that all seemed to change with the release of  “Iron Crown”, the band’s first single from the recently released Cobra Speed Venom. Something was different. Sure, it was pretty much the same band employing the same formula, but this time it hit me. Hit me hard actually. Everything I loved about the band seemed to be there. The ferociousness, the viciousness, the ripping and even jaw dropping solos, and most importanly, the “Fuck You” middle-finger of rock ‘n roll. Hell, even the new album’s awesome and cheesy title harkens back to the glory days. So, is The Crown actually back in full force, firing perfectly on all cylinders? Well, in this reviewer’s humble opinion, “You bet your sweet ass they are.”

From album opener, “Destroyed by Madness” to closer, “The Sign of the Scythe”, Cobra Speed Venom simply annihilates. Every track bristles with an energetic and aggressive thrashing death groove, and every member is on their A game, especially, drummer Henrik Axelsson and lead guitarist, Robin Sorqvist. Axelsson gives a beastly performance on Cobra Speed Venom, easily on par with the intesity brought to previous releases by original drummer, Janne Saarenpaa. While Sorqvist’s lead-work is simply phenomenal. The man’s knowledge of knowing what and what not to do with his solos is  first-class. In fact, I credit a large amount of Cobra Speed Venom‘s success to the stellar, balls out beatdown and the superb addictive fluidity that Axelsson  and Sorqvist lay down.

Personal highlights come in the form of “In the Name of Death” and “We Avenge!”. The former containing everything you crave from The Crown, with its militant blasting drum rolls and blistering and catchy rhythms, that when coupled with the fantastic leadwork, really brings a driving crush. Not to mention the sometimes/somewhat tongue-in-cheek lyrics of Lindstrand are in fine form. When the man screams “Feel the Noise, C’mon and Feel the noise, In the Name of Death, Feel the Noise”, I can damn near envision the horrible hair-piece sporting corpse of Kevin Dubrow (Quiet Riot) rising from its grave to feast upon the helpless posers of the bygone cock-rock era of yesteryear.

“We Avenge!” slows things down a tad bit while still capturing the knack of encapsulating the would-be soundtrack to the apocalypse. With a fat crunch and a pulsing battery in the track’s riffs, the song manages an anthem-esque vibe within its controlled chaos, and displays the perfect production job done by the infamous Fredrik Nordstrom. In fact, Nordstrom might as well be listed as a sixth band member, as his production amd mixing/mastering have just as much allure to offer the listener’s of Cobra Speed Venom as the material itself does. Okay, maybe thats a little bit of a stretch, but the man’s producing skills are obviously top-notch. Instrumental number, “Where My Grave Shall Stand” caught me off guard just a smidge, as it’s slower, somber flow and lead-tastic melodicism is supple, perfectly fitting, and simply to die for, reminiscent of the U.K.’s death-doomsters, Paradise Lost, and their album, Draconian Times.

Metal Blade has issued the album in a standard ten track affair, as well as a special edition of Cobra Speed Venom, containing three bonus tracks, pushing the album’s running time to a proper hour long listening session. While the bonus tracks are all damn good, I can see why they were left off the initial release. They don’t really add too much to the fold, and they also end up hurting the flow and any compactness that Cobra Speed Venom initially had; though being the quality that they are, I’m willing to chock it up to a “no harm, no foul” situation. With a unique and different album cover that could be seen as an oceanic version of Altars of Madness, The Crown ultimately delivers quite an impressive foray of raging, rocking, attack-dog melodicism that finally feels like a true comeback for these Swedeath maestros.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Kristofor Allred
May 21st, 2018

Comments

  1. Commented by: Evildeadjay

    Great review man! Love this record. Heir to the “Deathrace King” throne! Already grabbed a copy with my limited funds.


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