The Crown – The Burning / Eternal Death (2CD Set)


The term “melodeath” divides fans of extreme music like no other genre. For some, it presents death metal in an accessible fashion by adding elements of trad and power metal, for purists it’s an abomination that dilutes the sonorous intensity of the original. The latter have obviously never heard The Crown, a Swedish combo who demolished musical walls with such force that their reverberations can still be felt today. Two of their ‘90s albums are now coupled together and illustrate why The Crown are still reigning monarchs.

Disc One: The Burning (1995)

Back in the 1990’s, the demarcations that separated different styles of music were far clearer; bands often stayed rooted in their chosen field and existed inside a prison of their own making. Trollhättan’s The Crown were true pioneers and their second full-length, The Burning, found them throwing lots of different ideas into the mix and opening shot ‘Of Good And Evil’ has a distinctly Paradise Lost/gothic metal vibe. It’s something of a ballbreaker that threatens to buckle beneath its own weight, yet there’s a groove underpinning proceedings that ensures it swings from speaker to speaker like a huge wrecking ball. From here the band step-up a gear to deliver the thrash-tastic ‘Soulicide Demon-Might’, then a Carcass-inspired ‘Godless’, and despite the sonic shifts, The Burning flows smoothly and seamlessly.

One of melodic death metal’s greatest selling points are the vocals. Johan Lindstrand is The Crown’s singer, and his voice is suitably harsh and guttural, yet his words decipherable (unlike much death metal), and with the subject matter The Crown tackle, that’s a huge boon. Aside from the usual anti-religious, fantasy themes (‘The Lord Of The Rings’, Forever Heaven Gone’) the band tackle Holocaust deniers head-on with the brutal blast of ‘Night Of The Swords’. It’s heavy lyricism for a heavy song, and the two combine in a kind of musical exclamation point that further fuelled the feud between the Swedish death and Norwegian black metal scenes. A pair of epic, six-minute songs close the album, their lengthy nature makes a nice foil to the cut-and-thrust of the thrashier tracks, and ‘Forget The Light’ made for a fitting finale.

Originally appearing on the Slaytanic Slaughter tribute album, a cover of Slayer’s ‘Mandatory Suicide’ is added as a bonus track. The band perform a pedestrian version that doesn’t add anything new, and it falls in shade when compared to the rest of The Burning.

Disc Two: Eternal Death (1997)

As with 1995’s The Burning, Eternal Death was originally released under the band’s original moniker Crown Of Thorns (before legal action forced a change to the snappier The Crown in 1998), yet for this record they’ve had an evolutionary fast forward. Sounding far more confident in their own prowess, things get off to an earth-shaking start with the explosive ‘Angels Die’ and they rarely look back over the course of 52 furious minutes. Aided by Berno Paulsson’s expansive production Eternal Death has the feeling of a nowhere ending Scandinavian sky, and one that is about to release a raging tempest. Janne Saarenpää’s drums sound particularly good; it’s a hollow but heavy sound, and when he steps on the throttle and unleashes a succession of blast beats (such as on ‘Beautiful Evil Soul’) he ushers in a frostbitten black metal aesthetic which cracks like black ice.

It is on Eternal Death where the twin guitar assault of Marcus Sunesson and Marko Tervonen have really come into their own; the riffs and neo-classical lines on ‘The Black Heart’ are the stuff of Tony Iommi’s dreams, and only add to the grandiose vibe. In fact, Eternal Death is everything found on its predecessor, only amped up to 11. Johan’s vocals are more caustic and Magnus Olsfelt’s bass is more prominent in the mix, giving additional punch to many of the tracks. The hardcore blasts are faster (‘Kill (The Priest)’) and the epic tracks are more…epic, such as closer ‘Death Of God’, a constantly evolving beast that’s almost progressive in nature as it shapeshifts over the course of 10 minutes. A cover is added as a bonus track, this time Sepultura’s ‘Arise’, and it’s far more successful that the Slayer cover that graced Disc One. ‘Arise’ works precisely because the band stamp their own personality on it and claim ownership, and it really works.

When, in 1998, the band became known as The Crown, it was more than just their name that changed. They veered into a more death n’ thrash direction (think Venom/Motörhead) which was equally interesting, but if you want the best in neo-classical melodeath, it’s right here in this two-disc set.

Track List:

Disc One: The Burning (1995)

  1. Of Good And Evil
  2. Soulicide Demon-Might
  3. Godless
  4. The Lord Of The Rings
  5. I Crawl
  6. Forever Heaven Gone
  7. Earthborn
  8. Neverending Dream
  9. Night Of The Swords
  10. Wrongside Of The Tracks
  11. Candles
  12. Forget The Light

Bonus Track:

  1. Mandatory Suicide

Disc Two: Eternal Death (1997)

  1. Angels Die
  2. Beautiful Evil Soul
  3. In Bitterness And Sorrow
  4. The Black Heart
  5. World Within
  6. The Serpent Garden
  7. Kill (The Priest)
  8. Misery Speaks
  9. Hunger
  10. Death Of God

Bonus Track:

  1. Arise