Review by Jason Guest
There’s nothing like Australia, apparently. Kangaroos, didgeridoos, the outback, Uluru, Sydney Opera House, the sun-bleached sandy beaches, the Great Barrier Reef, and, of course, the beers, the barbies and the endless surfing. Nope, the sun never sets down under, no one goes to work, and everyone is blissfully happy. And who wouldn’t be with that kind of lifestyle? But down under the streets of down under there is a darkness of such darkness that darkness itself has never been so dark. And lurking in the darkness that lives and breathes beneath the sun-bronzed streets of Brisbane are three robed figures known collectively as Crowned. As with the UK’s Nine Covens and a host of other black metal bands, Crowned have shrouded their identities in mystery in order to let the music do the work for their first full-length, Vacuous Spectral Silence.
That this album has six songs that last almost an hour should give you some indication of what to expect from this atmospheric black metal bunch. The 90s influence is more than apparent across the album, particularly in the hypnotic repetition and minimalist structures. Icily cold and darkly atmospheric, the rapid-fire riffs are ruthless, the drumming punishing, and the dense, oppressive, and cacophonous atmosphere is utterly enthralling. The dark and sprawling melodies are laid out against a backdrop of ferocious instrumentation, the intensity maintained in the arpeggiated passages peppered throughout the album. While the acoustic intros of ‘Menelvagor’ and ‘Diamonds’ are beautiful and delicately moving, the ghost-like chords and the scowling, shards of glass vocals clash in a relentless, mesmerising and hypnotic sonic assault to create an evocative and painful listening experience.While ‘Firmament’ and ‘Diamonds’ are very good, it’s the title track that stands head and shoulders above the rest. At thirteen and a half minutes, this epic track’s Burzum-like feel is dramatic and ethereal, cold, dense and murky. Astounding. Where the repetitive nature of the tracks mean that they could quickly and all-too-easily become monotonous, Crowned provide enough in the way of variation to maintain the listener’s interest.
The tracks are all well written, almost exceptionally so, and the droning monotony of Vacuous Spectral Silence augments the leaden weight of its barren soundscapes. At almost an hour, Crowned have done well to produce such a work. Had ‘Journey To The Cross-Roads’ and ‘Apocryphal Catacomb’ for instance been truncated to focus on their strengths, Crowned could have truly captured the essence of their sound and crafted something exceptional. Oppressive, grim, grief-stricken, and cold, if this is a portrait of Australia’s seething underbelly, maybe it isn’t so lovely after all…
6 out of 10
- Crowned on Facebook
- Journey To The Cross-Roads
- Apocryphal Catacomb
- Vacuous Spectral Silence