March 13, 2018 The Crown – Cobra Speed Venom (Album Review)
The Crown operate in an almost darkened corner of the Metal world. Formed in 1990 as Crown of Thorns, the band came to fruition amidst a glut of similar Swedish Death Metal bands, including Entombed, At the Gates, and In Flames. As the band began to hit its stride a few years later, bands such as The Haunted and Witchery kept the limelight, while The Crown continued to steadily and efficiently produce brutal material. Early legal threats from a religious Pop band forced the band to adjust its name to simply The Crown.
After the inevitable burnout during the mid-2000s, The Crown broke for a handful of years before returning in 2010 with Doomsday King, followed by Death Is Not Dead in 2015 to celebrate the band’s twenty-fifth anniversary. This latested offering, Cobra Speed Venom, set for release Friday, March 16, 2018, marks their return to Metal Blade Records. The longtime trio of Vocalist Johan Lindstrand, Guitarist Marko Tervonen, and Bassist Magnus Olsfelt are joined again by Guitarist Robin Sörqvist and Drummer Henrik Axelsson, both of whom joined the fold before Death is Not Dead.
The breakdown of opener “Destroyed by Madness” can stand alongside anything else to come out of the melodic speed genre – when the song breaks into its guitar solos, it is hard to pick a side more impressive: the solid rhythm keeping pace underneath or the actual solo itself. This pattern repeats itself throughout the entire album, as the band proves that three decades of experience has given an almost inhuman advantage to mixing genres, shifting time signatures, and expanding writing techniques. On tracks like “In the Name of Death,” “Rise in Blood,” and the title-track, the band shifts effortlessly between Thrash Metal and Death Metal, mixing in elements of Blackened Death Metal and even Doom Metal. Blast beats lay the foundation for strong bass and effortless rhythm guitar while vocals and guitar leads scream overhead.
Then there is the lead single, “Iron Crown,” which is a fitting welcome to this aggressively charged album. Elements of old-school Thrash are seamlessly placed between tempo and genre changes. Strong bass work and nearly Black Metal guitars pepper “Cobra Speed Venom,” as Lindstrand screams his frustrations over blastbeat drums. A spate of keyboards over a quiet break adds a further Black Metal vibe, before the band returns to full Death Metal regalia. Follow-up “World War Machine” and “Necrohammer” continue the strong bass work, each quickly marching into the strong Melodic Death Metal of the band’s homeland.
“Where My Grave Shall Stand” appears as a long, almost-balladic symphony about the simpler times of Heavy Metal, followed by closer “The Sign of the Scythe,” which begins, breaks, and ends as an effective foray into Sludge/Doom Metal. At this point, the band is almost toying with its audience, showcasing the length and breadth of its songwriting, musicianship, and versatility. However, the weakest offering might be “We Avenge!” Here, a strong opening quickly dissolves into a repetitive collection of drums and rhythm guitar, and the lyrical content seems to be much stronger than the music underneath. A resigned solo near the end manages to introduce a bit of anger as the song dissipates.
Those looking for more, Cobra Speed Venom will ship with three bonus tracks. There is “Nemesis Diamond” is a speeding death march covered in NWOBHM solos and gallops, calling all fans to arms, and again showcasing the band’s skill and musicianship. Whereas “The Great Dying” is a foray into the fuzzy Doom of bands like Mastodon. Then, “Ride the Fire” closes the effort with squealing guitar and impressive soloing.
The Crown have an innate ability to shift time, space, and genre. Most outfits would stuffer from hitting too many different types of Metal on a single album, or worse, begin to feel stale after thirty years of work. The Crown not only welcomes these challenges, but nails them to the wall; the intensity of their early work is still present and is now almost unfairly backed up by decades of hard work and respect. For these reasons, CrypticRock gives Cobra Speed Venom 4.5 out of 5 stars.