ALBUM REVIEW: Black Crown Initiate – Violent Portraits Of Doomed Escape

Release Date: August 7th 2020
Label: Century Media Records
Website: None available


The blending of blackened death metal and melodic prog is a tricky dynamic to nail. Any time an artist chooses to combine two totally opposing genres, a plethora of issues can arise.

You’ve got the purists to deal with; gatekeepers who often refuse to accept any modifications to a style they deem perfect and who’d rather stop listening altogether than allow for any outside forces to dilute what they so cherish.

Once over that obstacle, it’s truly a matter of cohesion and songwriting ability. The juxtaposition of alternating genres can be thrilling as well as cathartic, if handled correctly. There’s a fine line between genre-bending and cacophonous nonsense.

With that in mind, Pennsylvania’s Black Crown Initiate have not only opted to dismantle any label one may choose to bestow upon them, but they’ve done so in one of the most ludicrously brazen fashions imaginable. Their third full-length, ‘Violent Portraits Of Doomed Escape’, is a far more welcoming and warmer piece of art than its nihilistic title would initially have one assume. It’s also easily their most realised and expansive project to date.

While obvious and fair comparisons can be made to Opeth or Enslaved, what distinguishes Black Crown Initiate is the extremity of which they push their conflicting sonic sensibilities.

‘Trauma Bonds’ evokes the shimmering, melodic prog of Yes, yet whiplashes back and forth between pummelling, blackened death, complete with overwhelming blast beats and malevolence aplenty, and soaring hooks that are as emotionally uplifting as they are catchy.

While ‘Years In Frigid Light’ feels awash with malodorous intent, ‘Sun Of War’ is a delicate, hypnotising affair that showcases a group of artists in no way shackled by any self-perceived confines. The deviously clever opener, ‘Invitation’, offers one of the most serene and gentle moments from the off, allowing for the holy hell that ensues to be all the more astounding, but ‘Death Comes In Reverse’ serves as the album’s monumental high point.

With transitions simultaneously flawless and jarring but in the most awe inspiring manner, Black Crown Initiate exude a clear knowledge of complex, extreme metal as well as a knack for gorgeous prog passages. It’s not just about fusing death metal with more melodic structure, but boldly adding clean empowering vocals over dynamic, genre-less compositions. The end result is an immensely unique audible portrait of a dizzying array of diverse emotions, and a career best for the band.

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