Crowned Unholy (Metal Blade)
by Tim Den
I’m not one for rewriting history, especially when it comes to bands returning to past material for a “facelift.” Hell, I fucking hate it when bands re-record old songs for new albums as it is, so imagine my skepticism when The Crown announced the “re-vocalizing” of their (in my opinion) best (and most melodic) album, Crowned in Terror. I mean, I understand that Tomas Lindberg’s stint in the band has become a footnote, but did they really need to create and release a whole new album just to get the guy’s voice off of 10 songs?
Well, as I read through Crowned Unholy‘s liner notes and listened to the album on headphones, it became very apparent that YES, this needed to be done. Not so much cuz of Lindberg’s vocals as I had previously assumed, but for the entire package. With pained recollection, the band details the exhausting sessions behind Crowned in Terror in the booklet, and their claims of bad bass and drum sounds (not to mention overall mix) become all too legitimate when you compare the two works in question. Crowned Unholy‘s new bass tracks (check out “Satanist” for the best example), drum sounds, and additional keyboard atmospherics (“Drugged Unholy,” “[I Am] Hell”) turn what was already a staggering album into a WAY heavier and much more crushingly full slab of granite. Most noticeably, there is now an all-enveloping “low end-ness” to the whole thing that seeps into every crevice of the metal attack. A FAT, ever-present pummeling of the extremities that just feels right. If well-produced death metal is the perfect hot tub to immerse yourself in, Crowned Unholy would be the work of a master tub builder. You simply soak in its heaviness.
The vocals: Okay, so Lindberg’s higher pitch gives him a nose ahead in the aggression department, but original vocalist Johan Lindstrand proves that he’s more dynamic, urgent, and emotive than the ex-At The Gates dude. He’s fucking giving it his all on Crowned Unholy – possibly because he knows this is the last will and testament of the band – as he tears the whole thing a new asshole from beginning to end. No love lost here.
As for the song-by-song: “Introduction – House of Hades” has been completely reprogrammed, the title track has gained some extra drum solos (though I have to say I like the old edit better), and “Under the Whip” got new melodic vocals and an “anvil snare” sound. Not all changes are cool, though: There’re no longer vocal battles on “Death Metal Holocaust,” the guitar hook during the choruses of “Drugged Unholy” is now buried, and “The Speed of Darkness” somehow grew weaker with its new melodic vocals and flimsy intro. But thankfully, these are just minor deterrents. With the new re-recording/mixing job, you’re gonna be too busy listening in awe to complain about anything.
Oh, and as if you needed a cherry on top, Crowned Unholy comes with a 14-song set DVD of a gig in Germany. Wild crowd (something alien to the Americans), “serious”-but-funny between-song “metal” banter, and great live sound. FUCK these guys were tight on stage.
It’s really too bad that The Crown are no more, because Crowned Unholy deserves a band to back it up with killer tours and more albums. These guys were always genuinely nice, from the humble liner notes that mention numerous fuck ups (they could’ve shut their mouths and no one would’ve ever known, but they’re down-to-earth and self-critical like good human beings are) to their homage to classics like Venom, Death, and Morbid Angel (the former two in mock logos, the latter in the beginning of “Death Metal Holocaust”), there was always a feeling that The Crown played from their heart. They gave us incredible death metal for 13 years, and now they have the perfect goodbye that they’ve always wanted. We’ll miss you, guys.