August 7, 2020 Black Crown Initiate – Violent Portraits of Doomed Escape (Album Review)
The American Progressive Death Metal band Black Crown Initiate has always been on the periphery of music lovers and music critics alike. Beginning in 2013 with their independently released Song of the Crippled Bull EP, they soon gained traction with 2014’s Wreckage of Stars, and again in 2016 with Selves We Cannot Forgive. Now 4 years since, they look to take materials to the next level with their third overall studio album Violent Portraits of Doomed Escape.
Set for release on Friday, August 7th, it marks their first with Guitarist Ethan McKenna, as well as their debut on Century Media Records. A nice new home for the band, with the full time addition McKenna, they seemingly have come to their full fruition. This fitting full lineup includes Mckenna, Nick Shaw (bass), Andy Thomas (guitar), and James Dorton (vocals), all of which work extremely well together. Team that with the fact they once again working with Carson Slovak and Grant McFarland, who have produced the likes of Rivers of Nihil and August Burns Red, the 9 track album has a great deal to offer.
Opening with the acoustic plucking of “Invitation,” the clear sound rings out alongside the poetic voice of James Dorton. This is while the guitar moves in varied cycles across the song while fueling a fire of unyielding measure, with the hammering pound of drums right behind. An intense introduction, it balances concise brutality with an unwavering eloquence, utilizing Dorton’s broad and immeasurable singing in such a flawless manner.
Next up “Trauma Bonds” features an opening which is effortlessly finessed and uplifting as it slowly intertwines with a more intense, harsh tone. Then jumping forward a bit, “Years In Frigid Light” possesses an atmosphere set by distorted, listless guitars that bring forth a feeling of foreboding darkness. Furthermore, on this track the percussive elements are swift and brazen, matching with Dorton’s vocals range that morphs from gravelly and thundering, to spirituous and enrapturing. Which leads us to haunting, bizarrely pleasing “Death Comes In Reverse.” Comparatively, the distorted, ferocious portions of the song are relatively similar to other on the album. However, it does evolve with a darker, forlorn chorus that truly brings it to life.
Showing more diversity, and flexing a softer, more demure muscle are songs like “Sun of War.” Patient at first, filled with deep timbre and whispering voices, it is soon gives way to hammering guitars along with drums as harsh growls melt away. Thereafter, the mood shifts yet again with eclectic rhythms and clean singing, both making for marvelous dynamic.
Overall, Violent Portraits of Doomed Escape is an alluring, varied album with a cohesive vision and flawless execution. The combined guitar work of McKenna and Thomas manage to create a notable, distorted tone that plays mindfully beside heavy, emotive melodic sections. On top of that, the charming vocals of Dorton harmoniously balances both weathered and ferocious growls with golden and lilting charisma. In truth, at times it is astounding to think both dynamic voices come from the same individual. Perhaps their most complete and intriguing album to date, Cryptic Rock give Violent Portraits of Doomed Escape 5 out of 5 stars.