My introduction to The Crown was their ‘Crowned in Terror’ album back in 2002 which was appropriately hyped due to the popularity of groups like The Haunted and the general surge of At The Gates influenced metalcore and melodeath/thrash selling like hotcakes. The band always seemed self-conscious of their death ‘n thrash ‘n roll shift after changing their name from Crown of Thorns despite the immense popularity of ‘Deathrace King’. For the very earliest of (technically speaking) millennials the second The Crown album was an important point of intensity and for many ‘Possessed 13’ was an induction into death metal just as important as Entombed‘s oddball death rockin’ releases previous. I have personally gravitated towards their Crown of Thorns albums from ’95 and ’97 over the years as most releases from The Crown are overly long, repetitive, and Johan Lindstrand‘s vocals are often an incredible irritant. ‘Cobra Speed Venom’ remedies none of these things.
On ‘Cobra Speed Venom’ The Crown initially appear subdued and aiming for straight-forward accessible death/thrash metal that is pock-marked with bland melodic radio-ready tracks plucked from the most generic hell of popular metal (“We Avenge!”). In this sense it resembles ‘Possessed 13’ more than ‘Deathrace King’ opting for less thrash metal interest and generic 00’s death metal tropes for aggression. I know that The Crown weren’t exactly great on 2010’s ‘Doomsday King’, as much as that album sought to pull back towards their old sound, but by contrast the drum work of Janne Saarenpää is sorely missed in terms of ‘Cobra Speed Venom’ actually sounding like The Crown in 2018. From sound to performance and writing every point of ‘Cobra Speed Venom’ reads as inconsistent and rote, but I would argue that some of it is saved by decent guitar work.
Lindstrand hasn’t lost his intensity but he has dropped some of his signature howling over the years and though The Crown technically innovated this sound in many respects, I’m left wondering why they’ve done nothing to stand out on ‘Cobra Speed Venom’. The record takes no chances and fully avoids the ‘extreme thrash’ moments that made the combination of death/thrash and melodic death metal so compelling in the earliest 00’s. For a band so closely associated with that style they do very little to churn up nostalgia or pander and likewise do nothing to differentiate their sound/songwriting from records previous. A few tracks do have that old coffin-burping swing, though, and I think the closer “The Sign of the Scythe”, “In the Name of Death” and “Necrohammer” might be corny Manowar-isms at their core but they remind me why this band was ever a blip on the radar.
‘Cobra Speed Venom’ is a generic statement that only serves to pad the collection of longtime fans with something halfway inspired. It isn’t so much a disappointment but an unfocused and relatively uninspired non-statement that never manages to be offensive outside of the generic shite of “We Avenge!”. I don’t think The Crown will win over a ton of new fans with an album like this but the long-standing followers will be entertained. I’m largely indifferent but there is enough interest in the guitar work that I only found myself skipping 1-2 tracks.
|Released||March 16, 2018|
|BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!||Follow The Crown on Facebook|
No heaven above – Nothing higher. 2.75/5.0
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