Black Crown Initiate
Selves We Cannot Forgive
22nd July 2016 – eOne Music (North America)/Long Branch Records/SPV (Europe)
01. For Red Cloud
04. Belie The Machine
05. Selves We Cannot Forgive
06. Transmit To Disconnect
08. Vicious Lives
One of the most unfortunate things about the “sophomore curse” – i.e. bands struggling to follow up a fantastic debut – is that often it leads to fans maligning an otherwise great album simply due to the unfavourable comparison to a debut they’ve had time to put up on a pedestal.
This is what happened when Black Crown Initiate released The Wreckage of the Stars back in 2014, following their mind blowing EP Song of the Crippled Bull. The Wreckage of the Stars is a great album filled with memorable moments, but as is often the case when moving from an EP to a full length, people seemed to miss the immediacy and tight pacing of the EP format. Now, two years later, Black Crown Initiate’s second full length album Selves We Cannot Forgive shows that the Pennsylvanian progressive metal quintet sure have progressed!
Though the band have usually been lumped into the category of progressive death metal, anyone who’s listened to them knows that death metal is only a small part of their repertoire. Indeed, in some ways this has lessened even more on Selves We Cannot Forgive, giving way to an even wider palette of progressiveness. While there are plenty of technically intense riffs, paired with blasting and James Dorton´s varied screaming styles, songs like “Again” and the title track largely forgo these elements in favour of guitarist Andy Thomas’ clean vocals and more delicate musical themes. The keyword here is ‘largely’, because these elements are still there but they are made that much more effective by the dynamics of being placed within an otherwise reserved song.
“There´s nothing worth changing” sings Thomas in album closer “Vicious Lives”, but as an ever-evolving band, Black Crown Initiate have both found things worth changing, and others worth keeping the same. Closing what will essentially be labelled a death metal album with what amounts to a four-and-a-half minute post-rock influenced build-up is certainly a worthwhile change of pace for the genre.
Black Crown Initiate have always been great songwriters, as is apparent in their almost flawless debut EP, but here they’ve really honed their craft. Guitar solos – never exactly a weak point before – are placed with deftness, and the note selection and general technique is so on point here that even the biggest wank-o-phobe (patent pending) is sure to put on a “hell yeah” face when hearing the tasty shred of “Transmit to Disconnect”.
Elsewhere, the bass returns to prominence in BCI´s sound after stepping back somewhat for The Wreckage of the Stars, giving Nick Shaw room to shine – especially in the quieter areas of the album. Similar to Akercocke before them, Black Crown Initiate seem to know exactly when to place an emphasis on a cosy groove, when to let their beast of a drummer Jesse Beahler blast away, and when to put in a subtle hint of classical instrumentation. The subtle dynamics ensure every song has its own characteristic and even though it may take a couple of listens to familiarise yourself with each track, when it clicks you´ll be hard pressed to stop the album before a full playthrough has finished.
Through these first few listens, you’ll notice that Selves We Cannot Forgive is not as instantly accessible as the band’s previous material, which sadly means some may give up on it. Those who persevere will find a flurry of beautifully written and arranged songs which will surely grace many year-end lists. Outstanding.