Extreme metal merchants Svart Crown have been slowly building up a head of steam since their inception in 2004, with a steady stream of records and a number of slots supporting high profile acts. Four years have passed since the release of Profane, but the French quartet find themselves on decent footing for a surge up the ladder. With the injection of new blood into their line up and the backing a bigger label in Century Media, the band are ready to strike once again with Abreaction.
Svart Crown’s brand of blackened death metal sees them wear their influences quite proudly upon their sleeve. Obvious comparisons will be drawn to Behemoth’s infernal riffing style, with some of the more obtuse, atonal guitar parts evoking the music of the likes of Morbid Angel or compatriots Gojira. The black influence is more overt than that seen in the Polish brutes’ more modern material however; with Svart Crown also owing a debt of gratitude to the likes of fellow countrymen Deathspell Omega. Each song is like a grand ceremonial procession, with little thought paid to rigid song structures. This can become a little disorientating as the album wears on, with each track leaping from one movement to the next, but it rarely feels haphazard or awkward, and it also ensures that there is plenty of variety to ward off monotony.
One thing that Svart Crown nail on Abreaction is atmosphere. Whether it’s through dense riff assaults, fiery guitar harmonies or doomy slogs, they’re always painting a picture with their music. More often than not, they alter the canvas multiple times within the same track, such is the aforementioned lack of conventional song structures. The darkness slowly encroaches with “Golden Sacrament”’s gradual build, with whispered vocals morphing into vile screams. There’s probably a bit too much bounce to the music as the growled vocals enter the fray, but it’s indicative of a band who’re willing to push their boundaries and challenge themselves. “Carcosa” will catch those were eased in by the relatively reserved opener flat footed, pulverising listeners with an onslaught of speedy riffs and busy drum work, courtesy of Kévin Paradis. Paradis’ performance is superb, with plenty of diversity and flair to go along with his obvious talents. The song also draws attention to the muddy guitar tone, which, whilst helping the oppressive aura, gives the riffs less clarity. I guess it was an option of weighing up the two, and overall, I don’t feel the lack of an ultra crisp guitar tone detracts from the album too much.
“The Pact: To the Devil His Due” is an early album highlight; the huge, crushing chords allowing the ominous opening to effectively unleash a vat of hellish black metal riffs. The deep vocals in the interlude again leave you unsettled; tasteful drumming and guitar textures a brief respite before a punishing final minute of blast beat driven mayhem. “Upon This Intimate Madness” somehow ups the ante, refusing to let you settle with a frenetic riff that beats you from pillar to post. The dark, brooding instrumental “Tentacion” makes effective use of some tribal style drumming and eerie guitar patterns, bleeding perfectly into the straightforward death metal cut “Orgasmic Spiritual Ecstasy”. It’s far from the most adventurous song on the album, but it has a strong collection of riffs and some interesting percussive elements mid way through.
Whilst Abreaction has a number of inspired songs, there’s also a fair amount that fall a little flat. The biggest issue is that a lot of the riffs never take hold. When coupled with a lack of discernible song structures, it’s easy for large portions of the music to drift by. There’s also an element of predictability to the music. Most tracks have some sort of slower break down, with it getting to the point where you’re wondering when in the song it’ll occur, not if.
Overall, Svart Crown have a decent album on their hands with Abreaction, but it lacks the consistency of the acts from which they share stylistic similarities. The record is not one to avoid, but don’t expect it to blow you away either.
Rating: 6/10 – solid but unspectacular blackened death metal.
Highlights: “The Pact: To the Devil His Due”, “Upon This Intimate Madness”, “Orgasmic Spiritual Ecstasy”
Abreaction is available in Europe now and on March 17th in the US, via Century Media Records.