For I Am King - Crown review
|Band:||For I Am King|
|Release date:||January 2023|
Metalcore in the new millennium has an inextricable history with melodic death metal; however, as the decades have passed, new waves of metalcore have arguably de-emphasized this lineage in favor of more technical, extreme or gnarly styles. Still, every once in a while, it’s nice to hear a fresh metalcore album from musicians that still remember the titans of the Gothenburg scene, and with Crown, For I Am King highlight the benefits of such tradition.
Celebrating their tenth anniversary as a band this year, Dutch group For I Am King are not quite novices anymore, but they’re still in the process of growing their reputation. During the decade within which they’ve been pursuing this objective, many of the biggest names in the metalcore scene (Erra, Northlane, Currents, Spiritbox…) have been of a djentier or more progressive persuasion. For I Am King are by no means adrift from such trends; however, alongside some of those modern elements is something more ‘classic’ (well, as far as music from the nineties and noughties can be), and while the end result isn’t revelatory, it’s something that I find to be rather satisfying.
Clocking in at a bit over 36 minutes, this is a compact record, and with only opener “Avarice” exceeding the 5-minute mark, it’s made of fairly compact songs. This doesn’t leave much time for dilly-dallying or atmosphere-building interludes, and Crown doesn’t mess around, with the exception of an ominous introductory lead into the meat of “Avarice” right at the beginning of the record. There’s plenty in the first two songs that embed For I Am King’s sound right in the modern metalcore scene, from the post-rock tremolo in the chorus and djenty climax of “Avarice” to the tech grooves during the emphatic opening to “Liars”. At the same time, the guitar leads in the chorus of the latter add a charming retro edge to this gnarly, chuggy beast of a track.
After that point, though, the melodeath elements come more prominently through, most glaringly on the synth-heavy “Trojans”, which is stacked full of Gothenburg-inspired riffs and melodies. The lead guitar melodies are a major strength of Crown; whether it’s the energetic, technical hook opening up “Barriers” or the more measured one that gives closing song “Disciples” a grandiose introduction, these leads consistently offer something exciting, and sit ably next to the metalcore chugs and breakdowns. The lead guitar work can also take the form of solos, with some beautiful melodeath soloing on “Barriers” and album highlight “Sinners”. Still, it’s by no means a rejection of modern metalcore from that point on; “Pariah” (featuring Darkest Hour’s John Henry as a guest vocalist) has strong Polaris vibes for me, while “Bloodline” is the closest thing the record has to a ballad (Alma Alizadeh opts against bringing in clean vocals at any point during the album).
When the album is on top form, it can be quite delightful. “Liars” is a solid early effort, but it is tracks later on that really stand out to me. “Barriers” has the aforementioned great guitar lead work, but it’s the combination of leads with gnarly riffs, a tasty breakdown and a stirring, huge-sounding climax/outro that turns it into a great song. “Sinners” flies out the trap with full-pelt riffing, but it’s when it slows down for the instantly memorable chorus, emphatic guitar leads, vocal refrain and all, that it really sticks its hooks in, and the reinterpretation of that chorus for the final rendition/climax takes it to another level (backing choirs and all); of all the songs from the album not released as advance singles, “Sinners” deservedly has the highest number of streams thus far by a margin. Last but not least, “Disciples” shies away from any full-speed aggression, but has a sense of purpose and aura that ensures even slower For I Am King is very impressive.
I don’t know whether this is quite a modern metalcore classic for me yet; outside of the songs mentioned in the last paragraph, it’s not quite a consistently outstanding release, and I do have to admit that “Bloodline” is a bit tepid in comparison to the rest of the tracklist. Still, metalcore, as much as I thoroughly enjoy it at its best, can be a tad hit or miss for me, and there’s not been many albums I’ve come across in the last few years that I’ve found as satisfying throughout as Crown, so I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on For I Am King going forward, as well as looking out for any other bands bringing melodeath into the current wave of metalcore as well as these guys do.
||Written on 01.02.2023 by|
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