• Appeasing melancholy for body, mind and soul - A review of Black Crown Initiate's "Selves We Cannot Forgive"

    Black Crown Initiate - Selves We Cannot Forgive (2016)

    On its second full length release, American progressive death metal quintet Black Crown Initiate has further decreased its death metal roots to adapt a more progressive vibe based upon hypnotizingly melancholic melodies. Atmospheric instrumental parts and relaxed clean vocals dominate this intellectual record.

    Many tracks start with calm instrumental parts that can last more than two minutes before the tunes actually start to sound like extreme metal music as in the case of the very representative title song "Selves We Cannot Forgive". This track even features some beautiful piano melodies, jazz rhythms and post rock vibes. Still, the numerous introductions on this album never sound boring, exchangeable or pretentious and always add to the atmosphere of each tune.

    The acoustic guitar and guitar solos even recall progressive rock groups of the seventies like Gentle Giant and Yes in tunes like "Again". It's not a coincidence that the vinyl version of this record contains a cover of King Crimson's "Fallen Angel" either.

    The enchanting, introspective and melodramatic vibes are occasionally interrupted by efficient death metal outbursts with low growls or high shouts, thunderous riffs, heavy bass guitars and a technically stunning drum play that adds some welcome blast beat passages to an otherwise slow record as in the diversified album highlight "Belie the Machine". This masterpiece sounds much shorter than its actual running time of nine minutes. On a side note, this track's chorus is one of the most beautiful things I have heard all year long.

    A perfect example for the band's overall mellower sound described above is the album closer "Vicious Lives" that was streamed before the actual record was released. The tune takes three and a half minutes to build up an appeasing, natural and almost sacral atmosphere that recalls the calmer moments of bands like Anathema, Opeth or Solstafir. It takes far more than a minute before clean vocals kick in that remind me of Depeche Mode. Acoustic guitars and slow tribal drum passages slowly amplify the sound that leads to an emotional outburst with vivid drum passages, powerful riffs and liberated clean vocals for about forty-five seconds. The track then ends with a droning sound of static that goes back to the heavier opener to come full circle. In its structure, the tune recalls some more experimental tracks of contemporary In Flames. This kind of song might not be what death metal purists are looking for but anyone who likes profoundly emotional rock and metal music should recognize the high quality song writing behind this brilliant closer.

    Death metal fans can still find a few heavier tunes like the diversified, engaging and very focused opener "For Red Clouds" where deep growls, passionate shouts and hypnotizing clean vocals harmonize perfectly. Still, even this heaviest tune on the album would have been among the calmer tracks on the predecessor. This opening track seems to go back to the band's roots for a very last time while the rest of the album becomes progressively calmer and ends with the smoothest tune that seems to indicate a bold future.

    Even though an obvious hit like "A Great Mistake" is missing on this sophomore effort, Selves We Cannot Forgive is overall slightly better than the predecessor because each song is close to perfection and follows a clear and coherent structure of emotionally driven melancholy. The album as a whole is a real grower and best enjoyed in a dark room with your headphones on. The more one listens to this release, the more sense it makes. This is definitely a big step in the right direction for this young band that already manages to craft a very distinctive sound. This record should be a rock solid candidate for the top spots on the lists of the best records of the year for anyone who likes progressive extreme metal.

    Final verdict: 91%

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