Artist: Night Crowned
Album Title: Impius Viam
Label: Noble Demon
Date of Release: 28 February 2020
I remember, like it was yesterday, the moment when I was first introduced to the music of Dissection. It was in my first year at university, around 1998, and I was lent a copy of ‘Storm Of The Light’s Bane’ on cassette tape. It was the ‘B’ side to In Flame’s ‘The Jester Race’ and the sound quality was appalling. But I remember the feeling of excitement, the goosebumps, the chills and the sheer elation that I felt when ‘Night’s Blood’ ripped through the stereo speakers. The combination of extreme darkness, the atmosphere, the exquisite melodies and the rich acoustic interludes that emanated through the crackle and hiss…I’d never heard anything like it before and I was hooked.
Why am I telling you this? The reason is that when I first heard ‘Reborn’ by Night Crowned, I felt a similar rush of barely-contained excitement. Am I saying therefore, that the output of Night Crowned on ‘Impius Viam’ is as good as the absolutely God-like (or Satan-like more accurately) ‘Storm Of The Light’s Bane’? The answer is probably ‘no’, but I have to be honest and declare that right here, right now, there’s not much in it.
Having said that, it needs to be said that ‘Impius Viam’ is not a dead ringer for Dissection, but it does share a couple of similarities: both Dissection and Night Crowned are Swedish, they both plunder the rich furrow of blackened death metal, both feature fast-paced riffing and acoustic elements, and both have/had an innate ability to inject the most exquisite and glorious melodies into their extreme metal soundscapes. And it is this latter ingredient that has got me so excited.
Unless you’re new to the Man Of Much Metal, or simply haven’t read my reviews properly, you’ll know full well that I am a sucker for melody. I like my music as heavy as humanly possible and occasionally, I’ll forego melody if the music is interesting or exciting enough without it. But when you present to me an extreme metal band that’s heavy and aggressive as hell but who likes to inject catchy melodies into the music, I’m likely to sit bolt upright, salivate like Pavlov’s dog and devour every last second of it, probably accompanied by a maniacal grin. That’s where Night Crowned come in.
Almost every one of the twelve songs that comprise ‘Impius Viam’ seek to both bludgeon me to death whilst caressing me with some beautiful, arresting melodies. It is an intoxicating blend and it has meant that I have spent a lot of time listening to what is rather unbelievably, Night Crowned’s debut full-length album. When I discovered this, such is the quality on display here, I was initially shocked.
Mind you, one look at the quartet who make up Night Crowned and it makes a little more sense as none of the four are strangers to the world of metal music. Bassist/guitarist H Liljesand and guitarist/vocalist J Eskilsson both ply their trade for Cypher System and were both involved with Dead By April amongst others. Then there’s the drummer, J Jaloma who can boast Dark Funeral, Despite and Imperium on his current CV along with a host of previous duties. Even the vocalist, the lesser-known K Romlin has been involved in the past with a clutch of underground bands.
The experience really shows too, because the quartet really hit the ground running and don’t stop until the better part of an hour has elapsed. It is a breathless, whirlwind hour that keeps me completely rapt for the entire time, never losing its sheen or magic no matter how many times I listen to it.
The title track serves as a brief 30-second instrumental intro but it is full of atmosphere and foreboding drama and intensity, with a harpsichord and dark choir leading the way. The aforementioned ‘Reborn’ is the first ‘proper’ track and it literally blasts from the speakers like a rabid demon from the underworld, full of fast-paced blast beat drumming and scything, tremolo riffing, not dissimilar to Dissection in approach. The gruff vocals are as savage as the music but even in the grip of the whirlwind, you can hear some melodic intent. And then, out of nowhere, the storm parts to reveal a brief piano melody, before the onslaught begins again with renewed intensity, albeit with some gloriously melodic lead guitars to accent the melody. From then on, the song flits between the opening delivery and the more melodious embellishments to great effect. I feel battered and bruised but also elated, because it’s the kind of song that I want to hear and long to hear.
‘Nocturnal Pulse’ begins with more beautiful lead guitar work that introduces the central melody to the song, a melody that continues thanks to some great synth work and fast-picked lead guitars atop a frenetic blast of aggression. The lead guitar break that emerges is stunning, as is the ensuing atmospheric melody, but despite the odd momentary pause, the onslaught barely lets up so again we’re battered by blast beats and aggressive, meaty riffs. That said, there’s a delicious piano section towards the end, alongside a whispered vocal that acts nicely as a momentary pause to the savagery.
An acoustic guitar and weighty bass introduce ‘Ira’, a generally slightly slower-paced song, dripping with malevolent atmosphere. Not only do we get the acoustic guitar, we are treated to the first hints of clean vocals and actually, they are great, offering another outlet for Night Crowned’s expert melodic sensibilities. They compliment the more aggressive aspects of the song brilliantly and provide depth as well as variety.
The fantastic music continues with the unashamed black metal staccato-riff-led ‘Your Ending, Your Demise’. It has an evil malevolence to it, led by some really tortured screams but still, there’s a certain accessibility created by the powerful and irresistible melodies. Meanwhile, ‘Your Sacrilegious Flesh’ dials up the theatrics with a classical Gothic horror film score intro and a stomping pace in places, more Cradle of Filth or Dimmu Borgir than Dissection.
However, fearing that I might (and could justifiably) turn this into a track-by-track review, I’ll just say that every song offers something that I like, meaning that I cannot just listen to a couple of tracks and be satisfied – it’s the whole thing or nothing.
But I have to mention ‘Unholy Path’ which has the most wonderful groove to it as well as a killer lead guitar melody and beautiful lead solo near the death.
The only thing that stops this album from achieving full marks is the production. It is, I suspect, necessarily and deliberately a little raw but as fantastic as the music is, when I listen on headphones, I am shattered by the end. And, as incongruous as this sounds, I find myself turning it down here and there to give my ears a bit of a rest.
Otherwise, I have literally nothing to quibble about. Night Crowned have awakened something within me that I hadn’t realised was laying dormant. It has reminded me what it is I like about extreme metal and blackened death metal in particular, and why I got into this kind of music back as a teenager in the first place. My tastes may have changed and refined over the years, but there is still something within me that adores the blend of aggression, atmosphere and properly catchy melodies. ‘Impius Viam’ delivers this blend in spades and so, in the blackened death of Night Crowned, I feel most alive.
The Score of Much Metal: 97%
Check out my reviews from 2020 right here:
Dead Serenity – Beginnings EP
The Night Flight Orchestra – Aeromantic
Deadrisen – Deadrisen
Blaze Of Perdition – The Harrowing Of Hearts
Godsticks – Inescapable
Isle Of The Cross – Excelsis
Demons & Wizards – III
Vredehammer – Viperous
H.E.A.T – H.E.A.T II
Psychotic Waltz – The God-Shaped Void
Into The Open – Destination Eternity
Lunarsea – Earthling/Terrestre
Pure Wrath – The Forlorn Soldier EP
Sylosis – Cycle of Suffering
Sepultura – Quadra
Dyscordia – Delete / Rewrite
Godthrymm – Reflections
On Thorns I Lay – Threnos
God Dethroned – Illuminati
Fragment Soul – A Soul Inhabiting Two Bodies
Mariana Semkina – Sleepwalking
Mini Album Reviews: Moloken, The Driftwood Sign & Midnight
Serenity – The Last Knight
Ihsahn – Telemark EP
Temperance – Viridian
Blasphemer – The Sixth Hour
Deathwhite – Grave Image
Marko Hietala – Pyre Of The Black Heart
SWMM – Trail Of The Fallen
Into Pandemonium – Darkest Rise EP
Bonded – Rest In Violence
Serious Black – Suite 226
Darktribe – Voici L’Homme
Brothers Of Metal – Emblas Saga
A Life Divided – Echoes
Thoughts Factory – Elements
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: