Black Crown Initiate - Violent Portraits Of Doomed Escape review

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Band: Black Crown Initiate
Album: Violent Portraits Of Doomed Escape
Release date: August 2020

01. Invitation
02. Son Of War
03. Trauma Bonds
04. Years In Frigid Light
05. Bellow
06. Death Comes In Reverse
07. Sun Of War
08. Holy Silence
09. He Is The Path

One of extreme prog's hot new commodities is coming good on their promise.

Although not quite generating the fervour of the likes of In Mourning or Ne Obliviscaris before them, Black Crown Initiate had already developed a decent following by the time their debut full-length, The Wreckage Of Stars, had dropped in 2014. To be honest, I thought The Wreckage Of Stars was an okay release, but it didn't grip me, and I overlooked their sophomore release Selves We Cannot Forgive entirely. However, Violent Portraits Of Doomed Escape tempted me into giving it a try, and I'm happy to have given Black Crown Initiate another chance.

"Invitation" is an impressive opening track, building slowly until the first bursts of extreme metal intent arrive. Black Crown Initiate aren't really a band to go full-burst blasting and hyperspeed riffing; their heavier material is more mid-tempo, underpinned with chunky riffs, bursts of machine-gun chugging, and patches of gnarly djent, topped off with growls and, on occasion, some fairly gripping lead guitar work. Opeth are obviously used as a reference point for most progressive death metal bands that emerge, and I think "Invitation" is the track where the comparison is most earned, especially during an acoustic section a couple of minutes from the end that practically screams "Opeth", but also some of the other riffing on this track. However, although pretty much every other review of this record that I encountered namedropped the Swedes, they don't come across as a dominant influence across most of Violent Portraits Of Doomed Escape.

One of the things Black Crown Initiate do well on Violent Portraits is pull off longer and shorter songs similarly adeptly. Following "Invitation", the longest cut on the record, comes "Son Of War", the shortest song, and it doesn't come with a noticeable drop in quality. The slower, twisting verse riff is nicely contrasted by the energetic chorus (one of the few places on the record where blast beats are on display), during which the impressive clean vocals of Andy Thomas get a chance to shine. He shows a few different sides to his voice on this record; at the beginning, with a more muted tone, I start to think of last year's record by Sermon, perhaps partially because of the religious themes on both albums. However, as the album goes on, and his voice goes higher and higher, it develops a more soaring, full tone to it, one that has been driving me slightly mad trying to work out who it reminds me of (none of the posts mentioning Opeth helped me out on this one). Regardless of the obvious comparison I'm missing, Thomas has a really nice tone, which is exhibited most compellingly on album highlight "Years Of Frigid Light", a melodeath cut (this time I know where I've heard something similar before, The Ride Majestic by Soilwork) that again channels something not dissimilar to Sermon in its quieter patches whilst shining brightly in its emphatic choruses.

Perhaps recognizing that it's peaked, the album takes a short time out after "Years Of Frigid Light" with a couple of minutes of droning throat singing on "Bellow". The second half of the album generally maintains the quality of the first, although I must confess nothing grabbed my attention in the way "Years Of Frigid Light" or "Invitation" did in these closing tracks. "Death Comes In Reverse" is probably the most intriguing, due to the way it slowly shifts dynamics, even as it traverses growling and clean vocal sections, as well as through its use of keyboards. "Holy Silence" contains some of the other particularly notable moments in this latter stretch, especially in the manner that it goes hard on the djent relative to the rest of the record. Overall, though, these last few songs are reliably enjoyable and well-structured, without ever quite delivering a knockout blow.

Third record in and, although I haven't got personal experience of listening to their last record to compare it to, based on other people's opinions and my experience with their debut, Black Crown Initiate seem to be on a firm upward trajectory. Violent Portraits Of Doomed Escape isn't quite the killer record to elevate them to the level of current extreme prog heavyweights such as Ne Obliviscaris or Rivers Of Nihil (at least in my opinion), but it's a firmly enjoyable and replayable record that demonstrates that the band are only going from strength to strength as far as melodic hooks, songwriting cohesion and variety are concerned.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 8
Songwriting: 8
Originality: 7
Production: 8


Written on 19.08.2020 by Hey chief let's talk why not


Comments: 3   Visited by: 76 users
20.08.2020 - 03:04
Crème fraiche
This peaked my curiosity! Catching up on these guys now! Great write up!
27.08.2020 - 13:30
Great review, although I thought the best song is Sun of War, which also screams Opeth most to me! If you like this, the sophomore album and their first EP are of similar quality. I agree that their debut, while awesome, is not quite up there, and has more aggressive songs.
11.09.2020 - 20:21
I gave this a try and after my first listen, I can definitely hear some Opeth and I am definitely impressed with what I heard. I think I might've liked it a good bit more than the reviewer though. Looking forward to spending some more time with this in the coming days/weeks

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