Reviewed: March, 2018
Released: 2018 LongLife Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
Danish veterans Crocell launch themselves into their second decade with authority, and a more pronounced blackened hue, with their fifth album. Where the band’s earlier works reveled heavily in epic, Amon Amarth-like death metal burliness, Relics is faster, more furious – especially at the outset – and definitely sounds and feels more “Norway” than “Sweden” when its hurtling tremolos and blast-beat powered pace take command.
“Black Death Redemption” makes for a fitting introduction to Relics, succinctly capturing its spirit in the title, then driving it home in its emphatic delivery. And that carries through the rather blistering “Once Called Slaves,” “Conqueror’s Tyranny” and “Tombworld,” all driven by the drum fusillades of Andreas Posselt and the furious, slashing riffs of Tommy Christensen and Rasmus Henriksen, and capped by throaty, imposing growl of frontman Asbjørn Steffensen. This is definitely a front-loaded album, but what an exhilarating “front” it is.
And Relics does lose some of its momentum soon thereafter. “Plague Altar” signals a return to melodic death metal before slowing down altogether with the epic slog of “Last Dawn Duet.” But that proves merely to be a pause that refreshes here, as Crocell launch themselves into blackened territory again with the bracing “Mammon Rise” and “Liar’s Labyrinth,” which offers the best of both worlds with its fiery tremolos countered by epic melodic guitar harmonies as the song fades.
The instrumental “World At Its End” seems a curious, if out of place, finale here. It perhaps might have been better served in the middle, alongside “Plague Altar” and “Last Dawn Duet,” serving as part of the transitional stage between the more black metalized front and back instead of closing things out – especially since that almost seems like what the band had intended with the stirring end to “Liar’s Labyrinth.”
Yet while that may be something a strategic error, there’s very little to fault in the band’s execution here. Crocell play with inspired abandon on Relics – most of the way, anyway – and dare to explore new, or at least less familiar, territory with an equally gung-ho spirit. With a decade and four albums under their belts, Crocell could have easily opted to coast a little bit this time out. Good on ’em doing just the opposite.