Black Crown Initiate – Selves We Cannot Forgive (2016)
Reviewed by Sebastian Kluth
On its second full length release, Selves We Cannot Forgive, American progressive death metal quintet Black Crown Initiate has further decreased its death metal roots and adapted a more progressive vibe based upon hypnotizing, depressive melodies. Atmospheric instrumental parts and relaxed clean vocals dominate this record, which is quite intellectual.
Many tracks start with calm instrumentation that sometimes lasts over two minutes before the tunes finally transform into extreme metal, as in the case of the very representative title song “Selves We Cannot Forgive”. This track features some beautiful piano melody, jazz-sounding 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 its use in solos recall progressive rock groups of the seventies like Gentle Giant and Yes in tunes like “Again”. It’s no coincidence then that the vinyl version of this record contains a cover of King Crimson’s “Fallen Angel”.
The enchanting, introspective, and melodramatic vibe of this album is occasionally interrupted by efficient death metal outbursts with low growls or high shouts, thunderous riffs, heavy bass, and technically stunning drumwork that adds welcome blastbeats to an otherwise very slow record, seen in the album highlight “Belie The Machine”. This masterpiece sounds much shorter than its actual run 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 of the band’s mellow overall sound described above is album closer “Vicious Lives”, which was streamed before the actual record was released. The tune takes three and a half minutes to build up into a natural, almost reverent 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, and the combination reminds me of Depeche Mode. Acoustic guitars and slow tribal drums slowly amplify the sound into an emotional outburst. The track then ends with a droning sound of static, throwing 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 satisfaction with a few heavier tunes like the 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 calmest tracks on its predecessor. This opening track seems to go back to the band’s roots for the very last time, while the rest of the album becomes progressively calmer and ends with the band’s smoothest tune ever, which seems to indicate a bold future.
Even though an obvious hit like “A Great Mistake” is missing from this sophomore effort, Selves We Cannot Forgive is slightly better overall than its predecessor because each song follows a clear and coherent structure of emotional drive. 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 despite the band’s departure from its heavier sound. This is definitely a big step in the right direction for Black Crown Initiate: a young band that is now crafting a very distinct sound. This record should be a rock solid candidate for year end best-of lists for anyone who likes progressive extreme metal. Those who are disappointed with Opeth’s current style should definitely give this release a chance.
4.5 // 5