Artist: Svart Crown
Album Title: Abreaction
Label: Century Media Records
Date Of Release: 3 March 2017
The slow, churning and slightly discordant opening notes of ‘Golden Sacrament’ usher in ‘Abreaction’, the fourth album from French blackened death metal band Svart Crown. And immediately, they leave the listener of this record in no doubt that this is likely to be one hell of a dark and malevolent listening experience. And then, like the pits of hell themselves open up, the full force of the band is unleashed to build on that tense and malevolent opening. The guitars are properly heavy, the drums lope menacingly and there’s even a hint of twisted melody to pull you in.
Things take a quieter turn as hushed spoken-word vocals enter the fray before exploding atop an increased tumult to great effect. The doom-laden opening is suddenly replaced by a much more pronounced blackened death assault where the entire band spew forth something a little edgier. But ultimately, ‘Golden Sacrament’ is something of an eyebrow raiser, containing a much greater doom metal quota than I’m sure many were expecting based on the band’s past offerings.
To put this slight change of approach into context, Svart Crown have had an uneasy few years since the release of ‘Profane’ in 2013. Most notably, the band lost drummer Nico Muller and guitarist Clément Flandrois, leaving the Nice-based quartet more of a duo comprised of vocalist/guitarist JB Le Bail and bassist Ludovic Veyssière. Unperturbed, replacements were soon recruited, namely the Agressor pairing of Kévin Paradis (drums) and Kevin Verlay (guitars). And now, if I can be considered to be a judge of such things, ‘Abreaction’ demonstrates that Svart Crown are firing on all cylinders once again.
What I like about ‘Abreaction’ is the way that it blends so many subtle influences into the final product whilst making it sound cohesive and a powerfully focused record. This is a multi-layered affair that comes across as being both massively brutal but also sophisticated in a cunning, vaguely insidious manner.
If the opener was three-quarters doom metal, the follow-up, ‘Carcosa’, frequents pure and unadulterated death metal territory. It is nasty, violent and properly extreme. The guitars deliver razor sharp riffs and the rhythm section propels the track via blastbeats and the like at warp speed. And yet, there is something accessible about it that keeps my full attention.
‘The Pact: To The Devil His Due’ then delivers just about everything I like to hear in extreme metal. It is by far and away the best composition on the record and I am addicted to it. Paradis unleashed the blast beats to devastating effect, underpinning a slow, quasi-melodic riff that is brutally seductive. The is a demonstrable black metal feel to the guitars as the composition develops but it is at the half-way mark that things go from excellent to sensational. The tumult drops away and there’s a tribal feel to the ultra-minimalist surroundings thanks to some guttural chanting. Then the guitars re-enter, delivering just three slow notes. The final, dampened note is inspired, albeit it is permitted to ring out on the fourth pass through. It repeats and this time, the other instruments gently build around it, ultimately exploding into yet more blast beats and an epic finale that is part death, part black and part post-metal.
The tribal element that is hinted at in this track shouldn’t be a surprise given the design of the cover artwork that is dominated by a voodoo-style tribal mask of what appears to be African descent alongside the ubiquitous extreme metal skulls. Indeed, re-listening to the album as I have done over the past few weeks reveals plenty of other hints in this direction, from the loose, tribal drumming that Paradis delivers at points throughout, to the subtle inclusion of instrumentation that I have to suspect is authentic. Then there’s ‘Khimba Rites’ which travels a satisfyingly potent extreme metal path, infused by what I can only describe as an inspired dose of sinister chanting atop more melodic guitar notes which provides lashings of foreboding atmosphere.
The atmosphere is again prevalent within the quieter, more organic but equally disconcerting ‘Tentacion’ whilst ‘Orgasmic Spiritual Ecstasy’ thunders towards a heady and powerful conclusion that conspires to create some of the most epic-sounding music on the entire record. Verlay and Le Bail’s guitar impressively layered guitar work sounds both simple and strangely complex within ‘Transsubstantiation’, adding a sheen of melody over a track that treads a death metal path but ultimately veers back into doom territory.
I could conceivably name check every song on ‘Abreaction’ because each track offers something worthy of mention. Indeed, there is nothing even remotely close to being considered as filler material. And that is testament to the band collectively for putting toether something so strong. But credit also has to go to Le Bail who has taken on the mantle of being the primary force in terms of creativity and song writing and he has excelled.
I have been aware of the name Svart Crown for a few years now, but not until now has it turned into a name that I’d consider essential when looking to scratch my extreme metal itch. With ‘Abreaction’, the French quartet have accomplished something rather special as far as I’m concerned. ‘Abreaction’ is a dark and depraved body of work that is both intensely brutal but also thoroughly compelling, thanks to a clever use of melody, atmosphere and excellent performances from all four corners of the band. Whether or not you’re familiar with the name Svart Crown, make it your business to check out ‘Abreaction’ as soon as possible. The Man of Much Metal has spoken!
The Score Of Much Metal: 9
If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others from previous years and for 2017 right here:
Nova Collective – The Further Side
Immolation – Atonement
The Mute Gods – Tardigrades Will Inherit The Earth
Ex Deo – The Immortal Wars
Pyogenesis – A Kingdom To Disappear
My Soliloquy – Engines of Gravity
Nailed To Obscurity – King Delusion
Helion Prime – Helion Prime
Battle Beast – Bringer Of Pain
Persefone – Aathma
Soen – Lykaia
Exquirla – Para Quienes Aun Viven
Odd Logic – Effigy
Mors Principium Est – Embers Of A Dying World
Firewind – Immortals
Slyde – Back Again EP
Sepultura – Machine Messiah
Deserted Fear – Dead Shores Rising
Kreator – Gods Of Violence
Borealis – World of Silence MMXVII
Pain of Salvation – In The Passing Light of Day