darkane redux: schuler’s angel

[Last week, things didn’t go so well for Darkane, but maybe…just maybe…Insanity wasn’t the best place to start. So I’m taking the week off and handing the reins to Twitter’s most prominent Darkane enthusiast, Schuler Benson, who makes the case for the band’s 1999 debut, Rusted Angel.]

Darkane’s sophomore release, Insanity, recently got a much-deserved reaming on Black Rain Artifacts, and that was just over its art. And while longtime Darkane fans seem split down the middle about this, I’m inclined to say the shitty cover is woefully indicative of the songs on Insanity. When I go back and listen to it now, the whole album feels rushed; recently-acquired singer Andreas Sydow still had some settling in to do, and the mentality behind the songwriting favored straightforward thrash numbers broken up by long lulls and needless interludes. Insanity is a passable melodic death metal record, but what makes it feel like a dud is where it’s sandwiched in Darkane’s discography. The band followed it up with the successful Expanding Senses. And before Insanity came Darkane’s debut, Rusted Angel, a masterful combination of the already-established Swedish melo-death blueprint and the deathy thrash of Kreator and Destruction. Rusted Angel has only gotten better with age, and somehow it’s still somewhat overlooked.

To call Rusted Angel the band’s first album isn’t entirely accurate; while it was their first recorded output under the Darkane moniker, the band’s core songwriters, guitarist Christofer Malmström and drummer Peter Wildoer, had already been playing together for years, first in the early ’90s as Demise, then as Agretator, the lineup of which dissolved in 1998. Malmström and Wildoer’s history together accounts for Rusted Angel’s odd duality of seasoned and confident steadiness mixed with an urgent and fresh immediacy. The instrumentation, further fleshed out by Jörgen Löfberg and Klas Ideberg, is muscular and melodic, instantly catchy but complex enough for rewarding repeat listens.

For my money though, the true hero of Rusted Angel is Lawrence Mackrory, a jack-of-all-trades musician in the Swedish metal scene, whose vocal performance here set a new bar for singers like Peter Dolving and Jens Broman (who’d later also do a stint in Darkane), sticking to neither screaming nor clean singing, but occupying a shaky in-between territory that’s as unpredictable as it is satisfying. Honestly, I’d argue that Mackrory’s performance was so original—and became such a crucial element of Darkane’s ouvre—that when he left the band after recording just one album with them, the remaining members’ highest priority in a new frontman was finding a convincing Lawrence Mackrory knock-off… and whether you wanna hear it or not, that’s pretty much what Andreas Sydow was.

So let’s talk about the songs. Wildoer recently relayed on Facebook an anecdote about the night he and Malmström got together to begin writing in earnest what would become Rusted Angel. Wildoer says that the two of them were in love with how “Blinded By Fear” opened, and they let that affinity direct the writing of “Convicted,” which, following an operatic instrumental intro track, ended up opening Darkane’s debut. “Convicted” and “Bound” both ride the fence between melo-death and just-plain-death, kinda like a mixture of Subterranean’s melody and The Winterlong’s faster bits. “A Wisdoms Breed” and “Chase For Existence” have similar makeups, but display the band slowing down the pace just a bit for emphasized theatricality. Then there’s “July 1999,” probably the album’s fastest track, boasting some impressive downpicking, blazing double-bass from Wildoer, and a possessed-sounding Mackrory hollering about Nostradamus or something. The fact that, style-wise, the band is relatively all over the place is actually one of Rusted Angel’s strongest assets. But it’s not just what they’re pulling and where they’re pulling it from, it’s how they’re putting it all together.

According to Wildoer, it was the tail end of 1997 when he and Malmström started writing the record, so in addition to At The Gates, they were surely already familiar with Hypocrisy, Dark Tranquillity and the rest of the bands who’d go on to form the subgenre’s top tier. Melodically, they were taking their cues from some choice artists. But the influence of Darkane’s forerunners, Agretator and Demise—an all-out death metal band and a thrash act, respectively—can be felt through the death/thrash in these songs, too. Also, in addition to Darkane, another Helsingborg band was picking up momentum, and even lent Darkane their singer for a brief time. It ultimately didn’t pan out; Darkane wound up with Mackrory, and the other singer, one Björn “Speed” Strid, would return to his main gig, Soilwork.

speed
oh, what could have been!

Another thing Rusted Angel introduced that’d come to define the band’s sound is the heavy inclusion of orchestration and operatic vocals. While orchestral/choral accents and flourishes aren’t too hard to find in melodic death metal, songs like the title track and “Frenetic Visions” feature them prominently. And honestly, if there’s anywhere the album falls short, it’s when the orchestral elements overshadow the band and create cracks in the record’s flow. They’d eventually get better at balancing it out on later albums.

On the whole, Darkane is pretty slept-on compared to a number of their peers. The band’s lineup has remained the same, instrumentally, since Rusted Angel. Andreas Sydow performed vocals on three Darkane albums (I haven’t mentioned Layers of Lies, but it’s Sydow’s best with the band). And Construcdead’s Jens Broman lent his voice to one, 2009’s much-maligned Demonic Art (which is actually my favorite Darkane release, fucking @ me, you think I haven’t taken shit for it already?). Then, following Broman’s exit, our homie Lawrence Mackrory returned for 2013’s The Sinister Supremacy, a solid, catchy slab that seemed to get zero promotion, at least stateside. Peter Wildoer’s also gone on to do some excellent work as a hired gun drummer, including providing percussion for Old Man’s Child’s choice Slaves of the World, as well as auditioning for the Slayer vacancy left after Dave Lombardo’s most recent exit. According to the band’s Facebook page, Malmström underwent surgery fairly recently to repair a torn ligament (or something) in his finger. It would appear that now he’s on the mend, and hopefully we’ll end up with some new Darkane at some point in the near future.

Now don’t get me wrong… Darkane isn’t At The Gates or Soilwork, but they’ve contributed some of the better music under the melo-death umbrella, and they somehow seem to get less recognition than some of their weaker cohorts (fucking Mnemic had a better deal and better distro/promo way longer than they deserved, but hardly anybody in the U.S. even knew The Sinister Supremacy came out, which is just fuckin’ perverse). If you haven’t heard Darkane before and you’re looking for a good place to start, or if like Jordan, it’s just been a while and you’re wondering if you missed something your first time around, Rusted Angel is a killer place to start. Sharp riffs, impassioned vocals, not completely terrible cover art, and tone for days. Listen up.

Schuler Benson is a writing instructor and PhD student at the University of South Carolina where he studies rhetoric and its capacities in addiction recovery, as well as forces his colleagues and students to listen to shit like Darkane. Tweet at him at @schulerbenson.

(more) 3rd tier terror: torture, plague, etc.

The latest poll is now live, featuring some early releases from some lesser-loved acts that still have a ton of firepower. Lots of extremely bad cover art here, continuing the trend  set by Darkane last week and upholding the late ’90s reputation for hideous visuals. Early melodic death metal is apparently home to the PSOne era of heavy metal cover art.

For your consideration this week:

  • Ebony Tears – Tortura Insomniae
  • Ablaze My Sorrow – The Plague
  • A Canorous Quintet – The Only Pure Hate
  • Orphanage – By Time Alone

VOTE HERE.

Vote hard.

Vote…once.

artifact 005: insanity

Insanity, indeed! Last week’s poll was a heated two-way race, with Kalmah’s debut Swamplord falling just shy of overtaking Darkane in the 11th hour:

poll5

Learned a few things from this one. First, putting Julie Laughs Nomore in the second tier based on the strength of their material was a mistake. After earning, like, two goddamn votes, they’ve been relegated to the third tier to romp around with the rest of their poorly-distributed kin.

Second, the people that like Kalmah and Darkane reeeeeeeeeally like Kalmah and Darkane….which gave me hope! Neither of these bands really clicked for me in their heyday, despite significant critical acclaim for albums like The Black Waltz and Expanding Senses. But maybe, backed by the long-simmering hype of their proponents and armed with a  weathered set of ears, I could muster up a new appreciation for the act that would emerge victorious.

So.

Darkane won.

S4IwWPN

Okay. If I’m being honest, the only Darkane releases I was really interested in re-cracking were Rusted Angel and Expanding Senses. The latter because it got pushed HARD in Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles back in the day (which was basically my 2nd bible to Metal Maniacs and earned hella nerd points for hanging 10s on overproduced bullshit like Evergrey), and the former because it was lauded on message boards for being “the good one” on virtue of it being 1) the debut, and 2) pretty thrashy before they got all LAME AND GOTHENBURG

Fast forward to my preparation for this lil venture: neither of these albums were available on Spotify. The majority of my listening is done on Spotify these days, because it has Chromecast capability and that’s what works best for my living room setup.

(If you have a problem with these methods, kind reader, I’m sorry, but please don’t try to use this as a platform to shame me into buying physical releases so I can play them on some awkward, unwieldy, outdated contraption. I like being able to switch between porn, wrestling podcasts, Lost in Vegas reactions, and Beaten to Death videos in FULL SURROUND SOUND with a mere swipe of a handheld device. If you prefer your musical consumption to be as elaborate and arcane as possible, fine. That shit is on you.

Speaking of arcane, I came across this little tidbit on M-A during my exhaustive research for this record:

darkandarcane

AH! So it’s not pronounced DARK-ain, but dar-KANE. Interesting!)

Anyway, back to my point. I went with Insanity for the poll instead of Rusted Angel because I thought Insanity was on Spotify while Rusted Angel wasn’t. But lo and behold, I go to write this thing, and I was either sorely mistaken, or the record labels had turned the tables. No Insanity. So I fired it up on YouTube, which is a myspace-ass way to listen to music.

Verdict: It kinda sucks!

On paper, Insanity has all the tools. It’s a hybrid of melodic death and that impossibly-tight Eurothrash that was done so well in the early aughts by the likes of Carnal Forge, Dew-Scented, Corporation 187, Hatesphere, et al. Plus, it’s got a palpable Strapping Young Lad influence running through it, in both the half-yelled pseudoclean vocal affectations and the manic tempo changes.

Make no mistake: These are all very good touchstones. But despite a strong foundation and some clever tricks, Insanity is plagued with a stale sameness almost from the first minute, never really kicking into fuck-yeah gear despite drummer Peter Wildoer’s best efforts. A lot of cool elements are at play here, but for whatever reason, none of it really clicks, and most of the stuff on display has been done better by other bands.

Melodeathness: 5

Is it thrash? Nope! Is it melodic death metal? Nope! Would some hopeless nerd writing a review of a completely unrelated record on Metal-Archives make a passive-aggressive stab at it for being “gothenburg bullshit” for no reason? Yep!

Artistic Badness: 10

Holy shit this is one of the worst album covers I have ever seen.

Thomas Ewerhard, may this be the horrible crown upon your litany of atrocities.

darkane

Deathstyle: 3

I mean, it HAD to be too early to be doing the invisible fruitgrab thing ironically, right? Right?

In 2001?

Anyone?

Darkane05

Vitality: 2

Look, people voted for this album and apparently think that it is good, but not only is this a lesser Darkane effort, it’s also pretty fuckin far from the most savage melodeathrash offering out there. And let’s be honest, there’s really only so much of that shit you need in your arsenal.

Interestingly, a couple of the Darkane dudes crafted a pretty cool album in this vein outside of Darkane, putting the Devin Townsend Project’s Ryan Van Poederooyen behind the kit while shifting Peter Wildoer to vocals.

Rec’ing this album kinda breaks the parameters of this project’s intended purpose, but fuck it. You’ll be better off with Non-Human Level instead:

return to tier two: draining the swamp

There’s really no cohesive theme to this week’s selections, I just tried to spread things out a bit stylistically while avoiding repeat appearances. (I don’t think I could handle seeing 2 different Gardenian albums take a loss within the span of a little more than a month.)

All of these bands were on the cusp of breaking through commercially at certain points in their respective careers–meaning that they were probably within shouting distance of being tacked onto the bottom of a Children of Bodom-led package tour–save for Julie Laughs Nomore, who were really fucking good yet distro’d like complete shit.

For your consideration this week:

  • Callenish Circle – Graceful…Yet Forbidding
  • Darkane – Insanity
  • Julie Laughs Nomore – When Only Darkness Remains
  • Kalmah – Swamplord

VOTE HERE, VOTE HARD. The winner will get covered early next week, like we do. See you then, humans.

artifact 004: the final chapter

No, this isn’t the last post, and no, this wasn’t Hypocrisy’s last album, either. The Final Chapter edged out Soilwork’s Steelbath Suicide in a hotly-contested battle last week, so this false finish is our first artifact out of the gate for 2018.

poll4

My first exposure to Hypocrisy was their 1999 self-titled album, which I purchased at a Best Buy in Duluth, Minnesota (along with In Flames’ Colony and Cradle of Filth’s Cruelty and the Beast) with a fistful of teenage Christmas cash. All three records had profound effects–and I still spin them regularly to this day–but the Hypocrisy really captivated me by being so varied and outright bizarre. After that intro, I bounced around their discography haphazardly, scooping Into the Abyss upon release, rolling back to Abducted after that, then finally stumbling into The Final Chapter sometime in my early 20s.

Somehow, I had ended up in Eau Claire, Wisconsin by then. A friend from high school was going to school there and needed a roommate; I was looking to escape a vapid, ill-fitting social circle and start fresh, so I packed up and headed south. The pretense was to “go back to school”…you know, to give in to the pressures of parents and elders because everyone involved was convinced that they knew what the hell they were talking about. (They didn’t, but it wasn’t their fault. Everything is a scam.)

Like most directionless twenty-somethings, I ended up wasting a bunch of money on tuition so I could pay lip service to societal norms (“why, yes, I am in college, Random Judgmental Prick, how do you like selling insurance for a living?”) and became a drunken asshole for three-plus years while I tried to figure out who the hell I actually was.

Quickly realizing that my part-time gig as the Biscuit Guy at Red Lobster wasn’t going to fund my nightly blackouts, I acquired employment at the Menards distribution center. Specifically, “Building 10,” where we processed all the junk that the various stores in the home improvement chain sent back. Used pallets, broken landscaping block, defective products, whatever.

It was brutal, 2nd-shift work, and I was too naive at the time to realize how exploitative it was. Mandatory overtime was a regular thing, as were shift extensions to 1 or 2 am without warning. Bathroom breaks were unpaid; we had to punch out to activate the metal turnstile that blocked the entry to the restroom, which was strategically positioned across from the managers’ desks. Covering up workplace injuries was actively encouraged, not just because a lost-day injury would be a knock against our building’s safety-hours stats, but any hospital visit had the added bonus of a drug test, which basically every employee was guaranteed to fail. The consequence was immediate termination.

Obviously, I didn’t want to get fired, so I kept most of my major incidents under wraps with assistance from my immediate supervisors. Among other things: I sprained my wrist throwing pallets (which is a far, far more atrocious activity than I could accurately describe here); opened a pressure gash on my chest after a pallet got caught in an upending machine juuuust the right way and shot back at me like a bullet, literally knocking me on my ass;  I broke my toe when a granite countertop in a cage full of defective products I was sorting unexpectedly cracked in half and landed on my foot.

tumblr_muqc811Hmm1qf9djko4_250

Sorting defects was kind of fun, though, because you were basically rummaging through garbage, putting items with certain tags on certain conveyor belts for processing. And while there were used sump pumps and water heaters and outdoor grills to wrestle with, there were hidden treasures, too. Once in awhile you’d score a recently-expired bag of gummy worms, or a pair of work gloves that were in decent enough shape to be duct-taped into duty, or…a portable CD player that still worked!

Since the working conditions were so shitty, no one dared to bring any worthwhile electronics in the building. So we’d mine these potato-ass CD players from the defect cages, get a few days / hours of usage out of them, and chuck them aside when they inevitably gave up the ghost.

It was on one of these jacked-ass CD players that I first heard The Final Chapter, through a pair of foamfuzzy over-ear headphones, as I shrink-wrapped a pallet of defective air compressors.

And back then, I thought it was kind of lackluster. Not a total whiff, by any means. But in my headcanon, there were two things casting a shadow over this record: My colossal esteem for the self-titled album, and the fact that The Final Chapter was a reneged epitaph, a final album that wasn’t. Due to fan response and the reaction they received at Wacken the following year–immortalized on the Hypocrisy Destroys Wacken live recording–they decided to continue, but I couldn’t reconcile this record possibly being GOOD when it was made by a band that was seemingly out of gas. I liked the cover of Razor’s “Evil Invaders,” but dismissed most of the record as containing ideas that were better explored on later releases.

Now? It’s aged pretty damn well, actually.  When this thing won the poll, I was surprised, but respinning it with fresh ears has been enlightening. The Final Chapter has always been regarded as one of Hypocrisy’s heaviest outings (arguably only eclipsed by 2005’s Virus), and that heft pushes straight-up burners like “Inseminated Adoption” and “Dominion” beyond the formulaic.

The best slice of the record is the midsection trio of “Inquire Within,” “Last Vanguard,” and “Request Denied.” The middle track is a speedy little fucker that splits a pair of ethereal, near-Floydian cuts packed with masterful lurchriffing. While I’m generally not a huge fan of mid-paced jams from death metal bands not named Monstrosity or Immolation, Hypocrisy really excels in this realm, and on The Final Chapter, they showed that they had the depth and dexterity to make it work.

Verdict: It’s good! Instead of relegating this to the lower half of the band’s discography, I’d put it up there with Abducted, but below the self-tiled, A Taste of Extreme Divinity, and Virus.

Fuck, Hypocrisy has a lot of albums.

[Before we get to the scores, a note on the anecdote I shared above: Menards has had a long history of legal bullshittery and cultural toxicity–do a quick search of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s reporting over the past couple of decades for evidence–and they’re finally facing some class-action consequences for mistreating their employees. While the CEO of the company is, like many rich old white dudes, a Trump-supporting, conservative shitheel, the fact that he wants to BUILD THE WALL shouldn’t have been the tipping point for liberals to start boycotting his business. His exploitation of thousands of workers for decades should have been. It’s not too late for y’all to scratch beyond the surface of your MSNBC chyrons, but get with the fuckin program already.]

Here we go!

Melodeathness: 6

While no one is ever going to call Hypocrisy a Gothenburg act because they totally have a signature sound, calling them anything other than melodic death metal is…not correct. I mean, blast “Adjusting the Sun” and tell me that isn’t some sweet, sweet melodeath right there. But Hypocrisy are def their own entity, and shouldn’t be pigeonholed.

Too much, anyway.

Artistic Badness: 5

Nothing egregious here, other than, you know, being stuck with an album called The Final Chapter in the middle of your goddamn discography.

Also, photo covers are generally tacky, even if y’all just look like regular-ass metalheads.

Deathstyle: 6

Yep, they looked like regular-ass metalheads. They wouldn’t make the crucial artistic decision to add a mesh t-shirt until the next album cycle:

hypo2

Vitality: 8

This is a good Hypocrisy record! And since, largely, the band has transcended scene and place, it stands on it’s own pretty well. Yeah, it’s got that Abyss Studios sound were the guitars are saturated as fuck and you can barely hear the drums, but it still kicks ass.

Is it essential? Not really! But if you like Hypocrisy, this should be in your Top 5.

Play it loud, kids.

 

 

four pillars, no post(s): return to tier one

A pair of promising rookie offerings, an iconic metamorphosis, and a premature epitaph: This week’s battle of titans marks a turning point in melodeath history. Whether you want to kill yourself with metal, ride with the vikings, or just really like album covers with a tiny flames in the bottom corner, we’ve got you covered. Should the next artifact be….

  • Hypocrisy – The Final Chapter
  • Amon Amarth – Once Sent from the Golden Hall
  • The Haunted – The Haunted
  • Soilwork – Steelbath Suicide

Twitter poll is LIVE, and I forgot to extend the time limit from 24 to 36 hours, so click that shit quick.

artifact 003: the dawn of flames

Gates of Ishtar came out swinging in the first third-tier poll, taking nearly half the votes in a battle that left some pretty sick albums (and Night in Gales’s debut) fighting for the scraps:

pollthree

These guys burned quick n’ hot in the formative years of melodeath, releasing three albums in quick succession before splitting up in 1998-ish. (Vocalist Mikael Sandorf would eventually grab a guitar and form The Duskfall–whose first two albums will likely get covered here at some point–and also join Bam Margera-approved death n’ roll dorks Helltrain.) The Dawn of Flames is the second album in their trilogy, and in a lot of ways, encapsulates the late ’90s melodic death metal sound in a way that more acclaimed entries might not.

It’s been difficult for critics to place and process this once-maligned genre’s place in metal history, but someone (their name escapes me, because it’s been at least 10 years) in the pages of Metal Maniacs once described the Gothenburg sound as a super-belated European answer to Bay Area thrash, and that’s always struck me as hella accurate. And while things would evolve as the years went on and bands like Soilwork and Dark Tranquillity would cement the sound as its own-ass thing, Gates of Ishtar took the same NWOBHM / borderline power metal influence that propelled early thrash and pulled it through a death metal filter.

Take “Perpetual Dawn,” the opener: It’s got that clean, Metallica-esque intro to set the stage before the throwdown, but it’s sprinkled with an odd combo of fairyland whimsy and that Tales from the Thousand Lakes WE ARE FROM THE NORTH AND WE ARE VERY SAD melancholy. And when the riffs launch in, it’s all gallop-forward urgency, filled with more angst than bloodthirst.

And that’s really the story of this record. There are some sweet, sweet ’97 melodeath riffs on here, especially on “Dreamfields,” the title track, and the closing bitchslap, “The Embrace of Winter.” Despite general bummer vibes simmering beneath the surface, there’s no lumbering, mid-paced bullshit here, just gnar-ass melodeath windmill material and it RULES.

Melodeathness: 10

Again, while records like TJR and The Gallery are (rightly) lauded as touchstones, Gates of Ishtar absolutely mastered this flickering moment in Swedish death history. While other bands went on to longer careers and higher esteem, The Dawn of Flames is an absolute melodeath clinic. This is time capsule material. Put it in a museum.

Or on Dustin’s hoodie in Stranger Things: Generations.

980x

Artistic Badness: inconclusive

Actually, dudes are doing a lot of things right here! That logo still holds up really well, and that Arik Roper-style art on the 2017 CM remaster is…

…OH MY GOD.

Oh man.

That’s…

…that’s really bad.

Whew.

Okay!

Deathstyle: 7

Gates of Ishtar were fuckin trendsetters, hugely instrumental in steering the kids away from Johnny Hedlund hesherism and into Swedish sadboy territory:

gatesofishtar2

The middle-part jesus hair. The plainblack, spartan uniforms. Song subtitles like “The Arrival of Eternity – End My Pain.”

The lack of any discernible personality.

The angst was real, y’all.

Vitality: 9

Despite their relatively brief burn, Gates of Ishtar left an indelible stamp. The Dawn of Flames is a sick little melodeath specimen, and a wholly worthwhile addition to the collections of those that have hit the heavy-hitters’ well too many times. “Eternal Sin,” indeed.

gatesofishtar

3rd tier terror: beyond the gates

Happy holidays, humans! Quick turnaround this week due to [whatever your preferred celebration may be], so let’s rip into the depths of melodeath archives and check out some overlooked / underappreciated jams this weekend. For your pseudo-classic consideration, we’ve got:

  • Armageddon – Crossing the Rubicon
  • Night in Gales – Towards the Twilight
  • Gates of Ishtar – The Dawn of Flames
  • Godgory – Resurrection

Twitter poll is live! VOTE HERE

artifact 002: eternal death

Welcome, humans. The results of the second poll came in late last Friday night, and while the voting was a bit tighter than last week’s, we have a clear victor in The Crown’s Eternal Death:

polltwo

Initially, I thought this was a bit of an upset. But upon further review, it makes sense. Edge of Sanity could be well-actuallyed into “prog-death” or something; Gardenian is perpetually underrated (likely due to their brief burn and bizarre arc); and Mirrorworlds is probably a lot of people’s 2nd favorite Eucharist disc.

Plus, The Crown is gearing up for a new release in early 2018, looking to rebound from a pair of haggard, uninspired, and unimaginatively-titled reunion records in Doomsday King and Death Is Not Dead. The album is rumored to be a bit of a mea culpa, and with guitarist Marko Tervonen cranking out adorable videos like this, goodwill is on their side.

So before we dive into Eternal Death, there are two things y’all need to know:

  • The Crown’s 2000 and 2002 releases, Deathrace King and Crowned in Terror, are two of my favorite metal albums of all time, especially Deathrace; I even have the title of the that record tattooed on my sternum because HEAVY METAL WOOOOOOOOOOoooo
  • I hadn’t heard a note of Eternal Death until last Saturday

Part of my aversion to this album was that it seemed like a formative / transitional entry in their catalog; after all, 1997 was a formative / transitional time for the genre itself. Also, it was the last album that they released under the Crown of Thorns moniker, so it seemed like a completely different era. (The name change to The Crown was one of the few successful “THE ——” re-brandings; remember when Gorerotted put out an album as The Rotted? Or when Irv Gotti changed Murder Inc. to The Inc.? Ew.) Eternal Death felt…skippable.

Is it? Probably!

But it’s also cool as fuck sometimes.

Back in ’97, The Crown hadn’t yet become the razor-sharp thrashsaw from Deathrace King, but they could still throw down. While the stringmen show flashes of their freewheeling, cockrock-cranked-to-twelve riffcraft here, it’s drummer Janne Saarenpää and vocalist Johan Lindstrand that are the real draws. They’re sloppy, savage, and completely off-the-rails at times, and when they lose it, it fuckin rules.

The main issue with Eternal Death is the same thing that plagues all of The Crown’s releases: The fast songs rip shit, and the slow ones are hella dull. Like Midnight and Goatwhore, I just want the fastness from these dudes, and there are a couple of eight-minute-plus plodders that, well, ain’t “Killing Star.”

Anyway, TO THE SCORES

Melodeathness: 5

This is the most melodeath that the The Crown gets–I firmly maintain that their 2000’s material was death/thrash and not Gothenburg–but it’s still not very melo. 1997, as we’ve discussed, was still the infancy of the subgenre, and while there’s a blurry buzziness to these occasionally-upbeat deathriffs that shares a common thread with their Swedish brethren, Eternal Death is more offshoot than cornerstone.

Artistic Badness: 6

So the coolest song is called “Beautiful Evil Soul” and my final project in eighth-grade art was literally this album cover but only marginally worse, so there is some minor-league decision-making and ESL clumsiness at play. But there’s not much in the way of the egregious wordmash that plagued Gardenian or In Flames at this point, as the The Crown mostly leaned on DM tropes like dying angels and dying forever and killing priests.

Deathstyle: 10

Magnus Olsfelt, you sexy bitch. You made 1991 David Vincent look like 2017 David Vincent.

And Johan, those chops. Good god.

crowncrop

Vitality: 6

While this is a cool entry in the band’s catalog and a interesting look at a young band that was a mere three years from blowing the earth’s crust off the fucking planet, it’s definitely in the middle/lower tier of their releases and really only one for genre diehards or Crown completists.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑