Friday, March 22, 2013

Svart Crown - Profane (2013)

Svart Crown has been hovering on the second tier of French extremity for a few years now; a band that is somewhat distinctly put together, but just not as unusual or exhilarating as some of their countrymen like Blut Aus Nord, Deathspell Omega or Peste Noire who have developed these cult followings and, as one might expect, assorted detractors. I've not been totaally impressed by this group's marriage of black and death metal yet, but certainly they're putting enough of an individualistic spin on it that they're past output has been successful. With Profane, their third album, they're not exactly reinventing themselves or pushing themselves 'forward' so much as they're just issuing another solid, dynamic release. But hey, the cover won't be forgetting that any time soon, or at least I won't.

Structurally, think Morbid Angel via Gateways to Annihilation, Domination or Blessed Are the Sick if they meddled with even more atonal textures and added a tint of psycho black metal circa their peers. The disharmonic tremolo guitar passages are dense and twist about in the imagination, but they also incorporate a lot of simpler, lurching chugging grooves for contrast (which they'll also imbue with some discordant picking of their own). The bass curves along with a fluid, embryonic warmth that really works along the post-sludge, post-hardcore atmosphere often created through the riff progressions, and the vocals vary between deeper gutturals, sustained rasps and even a few ritualistic, deep cleans when appropriate. A few samples are tossed in here or there, in particular the one in "In Utero: A Place of Hatred and Threat" with the girl screaming is very effective, unnerving and fun; I had to spin around in my listening booth and make sure there wasn't some exorcism/molestation going on nearby. The drums might not have a great deal of personality, but they provide a taut and competent landscape of blasts, grooves, fills, even some tempered tribalism ("Venomous Ritual").

Often, there are riff progressions here which are downright amazing, but I never felt there was a high enough ratio to break the bank. Specifically, the final sequence of tracks here from the brooding and bass driven "Venomous Ritual" through "Ascetic Purification" (which has this incredible dissonant bridge breakdown) and "Revelatio: Down Here Stillborn" felt the strongest, but the earlier material is consistent and invigoration within itself. Svart Crown write with a good deal of dynamic range, but often the transitions between the different tempos don't ultimately climax in resonant passages that provide the necessary payoff; and thus Profane becomes just another 'good' album, with a decent array of hooks and clear, churning production. Ultimately, though, they've got potential appeal for a wide range of listeners, from Deathspell Omega, Glorior Belli & Blut Aus Nord to Ulcerate, Morbid Angel, Nader Sadek, Portal & Mitochondrion. I'm not sure this will be their 'breakthrough' effort, but they've certainly got the weapons to impress.

Verdict: Win [7/10]

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