Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Svart Crown - Witnessing the Fall (2010)

Svart Crown is a French act attempting to bind together the harrowing force of brutal death metal ala Morbid Angel, Vader, Behemoth and Deicide, with the bleeding convulsions of black metal tremolo picking. They succeed in this, not because it's unnaturally difficult, but due to their rare ability to layer a number of twisted, unexpected melodies into their rhythms that add a pulsing, organic gravitas to their misanthropic demesne. The result is an effort that not only weighs off sequences of haunting atmosphere and abrupt aural incisions on a cautious scale, but actually manifests in memorable, spike-like writing that wedges itself directly between the two halves of your soft and sloppy mind.

I can't say I love the vocals of JB Le Bail, which are your pretty standard accumulation of David Vincent and similar influences, but they have never really failed at propelling this style, nor do they here. Blunt, caustic and to the point, while his guitars collide with those of Klem Flandrois to create acrobatic, acerbic strains of hostile melodies in "Dogs of Gods", "An Eternal Descent", and "Colosseum". The drums are manic, blasting appropriately where necessarily, a process that could become dull if the guitars weren't always diverting your ears; but nonetheless the product of an boundlessly energetic superhuman. Often the band will slow for some rolling, chugged material as in "Into a Demential Sea" or "Strength Higher Than Justice", but the fact that they keep their crisp, bright, punchy and organic guitar tones here goes a long way to evade the sense of plodding, pedestrian breakdowns that many similar bands suffer from.

Witnessing the Fall is a step up over the band's debut Ages of Decay, but there is still some room for growth. The vocals could certainly be more versatile than this to better effect. Also, the transitions are competent but they rarely offer much of an impact, merely cycling from one adequate sequence to the next, but often incapable of setting up one another for a seething storm of menace. That said, if you break down the components, most of the riffs on the album are quality, and I must reiterate that I love the sincerity of the mix, which sounds like you could be sitting in the rehearsal room with the band, but clean and clear. If you're a massive fan of the Morbid Angel albums Altars of Madness, Domination and Formulas Fatal to the Flesh, and seeking similar sounds, then this is certainly worth checking out, but I did get the tugging impression that true brilliance is still eluding these French hopefuls.

Verdict: Win [7.25/10]


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