The Crown

Death Is Not Dead

Written by: EW on 13/03/2015 18:26:22

Nooooo! Don’t make me do it! Oh, ok then, if I must. Let me state right off I take no joy in shitting on the returning efforts of one my most cherished underground bands, but "Death is not Dead" is not good. The depressingly flat, dull cover is sadly an occasion when one can judge a book by it’s cover as comparison to the band’s scintillating back catalogue illuminates why it pays to be dubious about the recorded output of reformed acts.

Quick history lesson - following the departure of Johan Lindstrand in 2004 to form One Man Army and the Undead Quartet (basically an inferior version of the Crown) the band eventually reconvened with Jonas Stålhammar (of God Macabre, among others) to release the passable "Doomsday King" in 2010. Cue the inevitable return of Lindstrand in 2011 and here we are, with the first subsequent release, although one that also marks the absence of Janne Saarenpää behind the drums and the replacement of guitarist Marcus Sunesson by Robin Sörqvist (Impious), so a full-scale reunion it is not. Amongst the changes it is the omission of Saarenpää which is most notable as the inventiveness and dexterity of his prior performances has not been replaced one iota by the limp and and lifeless performance of guitarist Mark Tervonen, who has stepped into the breach. And for all the talk of Lindstrand’s renewed involvement, his contribution is meek. Gone is the come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough bent of old, replaced by a sore throat kind of roar - granted it is still sharp enough tool to do damage but no longer capable of deriving the recognition of past efforts.

Primetime Crown material is known for a number of things, least of all the searing quality of the band’s aggressive thrash/death attack which enabled them to stand apart from countless other acts in the field never able to sound so unique in their delivery. Often laced with a high punk quotient coming from the bass of Magnus Olsfelt and a pleasant habit of making lightning-paced riffs imminently memorable, it comes as all the more disappointing how the poorly titled "Death is not Dead" scrapes the barrel dry in the hope of rekindling some of that passion. The pedestrian opening track "Reign" inspires no confidence with a guitar tone lacking teeth before "Headhunter" demonstrates the obviously diminished drumming abilities in the band today while the stuttering lead riff leaves my head hurting wondering why the track keeps returning to it. The stronger moments to be found, as in "Iblis Bane" and "Struck by Lightning”, are when the staccato palm-muted riffs are ditched in favour of more dexterous works and boy, is the difference in quality clear. Though massively hampered by the overtly mechanical production which has sucked out all the subterranean darkness of their "Deathrace King" classic in favour of dry guitar tones and heavily triggered drum sounds, these more positive moments do at least save me from total boredom.

Which is vital because tracks like the instrumental "MeduseId”, "Godeater", "Eternal" (Paradise Lost cover) and "Ride to Ruin" offer little of interest to fans tired of clichéd thrash/death tempos espoused by the bands living off the Crown’s legacy. "Speed Kills (Full Moon Ahead)" is the Crown at their most recognisable in the lead lines but it’s horribly blunted staccato rhythm and sickly bridges kill the track by the time Lindstrand utters his repeated refrains of "Roadkill!" later on. As for "Herd of Swine", it simply offers the perfect riposte to any defenders of triggered kick drums - we know Tervonen doesn’t have the skills yet here he blasts at 180bpm+. Strike you as odd?

Sadly all "Death is not Dead" proves is that this particular brand of death is dead. Like a footballer in his late 30s unable to get his legs moving at the speed they used to, the Crown circa 2015 can’t compete with it’s younger self and now find themselves relegated to mere imitator. The Crown are dead, the Deathrace Kings dethroned.

3

Download: Iblis Bane, Struck by Lightning
For The Fans Of: The Haunted, At the Gates, Legion of the Damned
Listen: Facebook

Release date 12.01.2015
Century Media Records

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