Released: 2004, Metal Blade
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
When The Crown decided to call it a day back in March of this year, I hung my head with sadness as one of the best death/thrash metal bands to come out of Sweden would no longer be putting out music. I spoke with drummer Janne Saarenpaa on October 24th, 2003, the very day that their final album, POSSESSED 13, was released and everything sounded fine. There was never a mention or hint of the imminent breakup of the band. Original vocalist Johan Lindstrand was back in the group and they appeared ready to take on the world. During our interview, Saarenpaa mentioned that he was currently in the studio re-recording parts of the band’s stellar 2002 release, CROWNED IN TERROR, for what was to be a full-scale release the following year.
So nearly 11 months later, the finished product, titled CROWNED UNHOLY, is upon us and I really have mixed feelings about it. I love The Crown and when I first heard that legendary vocalist Tomas Lindberg had joined the band on vocals for CROWNED IN TERROR, I nearly wet myself. Personality conflicts forced Lindberg out of the band rather abruptly and the return of Lindstrand was hardly disappointing news. I mean, who better? CROWNED IN TERROR is the best-selling release by the band and for good reason—it is a killer album! However the band was disappointed with the production, mix and obviously wanted to wipe Lindberg from their collective memory, as well. Metal Blade ponied up some money for studio time and everyone was happy. The result is a much cleaner, fuller sound and Lindstrand certainly delivers the goods, but the fact that the bass and most of the drums were completely re-recorded leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Most remastering is utter nonsense (ahem…cash grab…*cough*), but The Crown have certainly tinkered with things enough here to be credible. Still, certain things are best left alone and not tampered with.
This is a two-disc package and the first disc is the audio portion—a re-recorded version of CROWNED IN TERROR. Is this a huge difference over the original? Not really. Only the most discerning ear will notice the new synth effects, intros and added drum and guitar effects. The sound is definitely fuller and thicker, but the real reason to own this CD is for Lindstrand’s vocals (and the accompanying DVD…more on that later). The man was clearly custom-made for this band and his take on the already blistering “Under The Whip” and “(I Am) Hell” are just incredible. One thing that most definitely should NOT have been done was the addition of clean vocals to The Crown’s ode to Knight Rider, “The Speed of Darkness.” The Crown is not a clean vocal band and this misfire stands out like a 500-pound gorilla in your living room. Saarenpaa’s drums are just crushing on this album and after listening to the original CD and the new one back-to-back, it is clear that the spruced up sound is for the better. The accompanying booklet is full of cool information (who knew George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher from Cannibal Corpse was approached to sing a duet on “Death Metal Holocaust”?) and outlines all the changes and the band’s reasons for making them which is interesting to see from their point of view. Still, unless you are a die-hard fanatic of The Crown and must own everything they release, CROWNED UNHOLY will already be in your collection, but for the casual fan, don’t bother trading up from your copy of CROWNED IN TERROR just for this.
The second disc is a DVD of a live performance filmed on a small stage at a club in Karlsruhe, Germany on November 24th, 2003. The 65-minute show was shot with a few cameras and is of decent picture and audio quality. Being a North American, I never had a chance to see The Crown live, so this DVD is a real treat for me. The band rips through fourteen tracks including awesome versions of “Under The Whip,” “World Below” and “Crowned In Terror.” Saaraenpaa’s ripping solo on “Kill ‘Em All” is just as sharp as the studio version, too. The Crown’s “death and roll” sound will be sorely missed.
CROWNED UNHOLY, despite its crystal clear sound and powerful instrumentation, is wholly unnecessary. I love The Crown but this is a very strange release. It seemed to slip under the radar with very little promotion, so how many copies of this are going to sell and who will buy them? It is an excellent release…just very strange. Consider it a live DVD of The Crown with a bonus CD rather than the other way around and you will be left feeling more satisfied than the way it is being marketed.
KILLER KUTS: “Crowned In Terror,” “Under The Whip,” World Below,” “(I Am) Hell,” “Satanist”