Reviewed: [March 2021]
Released [2021 Metal Blade Records]
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
Swedish melodic death metallers The Crown have been rolling right along since reforming a decade ago after a five-year hiatus, even if they tend to get a bit lost in the mix as acts like the similarly resurrected At The Gates garner more attention. But The Crown seem undeterred.
Royal Destroyer is the fourth album the band have issued since 2010’s comeback Doomsday King, and is their 10th overall. And it bears all the hallmarks of what made The Crown one of the most consistent, dependable and energetic acts of their ilk – especially before the hiatus. 2018’s Cobra Speed Venom kicked things into a higher gear after one of the band’s few stumbles – 2015’s underwhelming Death Is Not Dead – and was a notably furious effort. That seems to have carried over on Destroyer, which rages mostly unabated.
This is the second album in a row for this full Crown lineup, a rarity for a band that have seen their share of comings and goings over 30 years, and that familiarity has made for a tighter, meaner unit. They set the tone with the 1:18-long ripper “Baptized in Violence” that leads things off with a grindcore-like barrage that is over almost before you realize what the fuck is happening.
But the fittingly titled “Let The Hammering Begin!” follows suit with equal vigor and more depth as it rampages along for more than six minutes, mixing in a hint of symphonic black metal in its sporadic urgent trems and splashes of synths. “Motordeath” rounds out the opening trio of implicitly ferocious ditties with suitable vehemence, building to its emphatic end as frontman Johan Lindstrand roars “The world is dead – and so are you.”
The pace really doesn’t ebb until the double-bass rolls of “Glorious Hades” give way to a menacing brood accented by the weighty riffs of Robin Sörqvist and Marko Tervonen and the low-end rumble of bassist Magnus Olsfelt. What it lacks in velocity, it makes up for in bludgeon. “We Drift On” marches at a similar pace, but with an airier, more dramatic tone that comes about a close to optimism as you’re going to find here, with Lindstrand sounding genuinely hopefully as barks: “We drift on/ We sail on/ We fade on/ We live on.”
But fury is always lurking around the corner and it’s off to the races again with a vengeance on the likes of “Full Metal Justice,” with some uber-fleet widdly, widdly lead work a la Bill & Ted’s Wyld Stallyns, and “Scandinavian Satan.” And even though “Beyond The Frail” and “Devoid Of Light” capture some of the moody dynamics of the “slow” tunes, their breakneck delivery prevails in the end.
Thirty years in, if you count the Crown Of Thorns days from 1990-98, The Crown are still a melodic death metal force to be reckoned with. Royal Destroyer is a raucous effort that sounds as valid and vital as anything from the band’s “classic” era at the turn of the century. They seem to have taken advantage of the Covid down time to re-energize and reload, and pays off mightily here.