One of my favorite bands to carry the progressive death metal torch Black Crown Initiate are releasing an ever so important album this Friday August 7th. Our Pennslyvania neighbors personally gathered my interest years ago when they were a minor support slot for death/grind legends Cattle Decapitation when the band released their first full length “The Wreckage Of Stars”. I caught them in a small dive bar here in Buffalo called Broadway Joe’s (the venue has now been long gone) and I honestly enjoyed them as much as Cattle. When I heard their anthemic banger “Withering Waves” (it’s my personal favorite being my introduction to the band) I was ever so convinced this was a band I had to stay in touch with. Said album and their EP “Song Of The Crippled Bull” are some of the band’s fans favorite releases (there is a ton of nostalgia for their first few releases among their fanbase). As a huge experimental kind of dude I tend to be (artistically as well) I loved the last full length from 2016 “Selves We Cannot Forgive”. While it was still fairly heavy, the band added more melody and even more moodier sections to their already long songs.
The band also recently signed to Century Media Records, which is a huge deal for a smaller up and coming band on a pretty well known record label. “Violent Portraits Of Doomed Escape” will be their 3rd full length album and 4th release in their short existence. To expand on my opinion this being their most important release is their slight shift to a more melodic, progressive and more moodier sound while still being fairly heavy has unfortunately divided their fanbase between the musicians and avid listeners. As an artist (like myself as a guitarist and lyricist) I love how they expanded their sound to longer more melodic songs. I don’t think they lost any edge at all, in fact I think it hits harder when they shift moods in every song. I love every release of theirs and this might be their most mature.
The band went through a handful of lineup changes and at times thought they might be in serious trouble lineup wise. Wes Hauch joined the band before “Selves We Cannot Forgive” and can definitely hear some of the influence with his guitar style. It cannot be lost in transition though the mighty Gabe Seeber (Decrepit Birth live drummer, Kennedy Veil) recorded the drums for this release. They went through a few guitarists and a few drummers as well. Ethan McKenna was a part of the band before their “Song Of The Crippled Bull” EP release. Now with a pretty solid lineup, it’s time for the guys to shine brightly and prove that they are here to stay.
BLACK CROWN INITIATE:
James Dorton – Vocals
Andy Thomas – Guitar and Vocals
Nick Shaw – Bass
Ethan McKenna – Guitar
Just like my “go getter” attitude with Imperial Triumphant, I emailed their PR agent and was able to get this album a week before it’s release date. You never know unless you ask, right? To be able to listen to one of my favorite band’s releases and promote before its release is a wildly huge deal to me. Am I shocked? No, I think it’s safe to say I’ve been into the BCI guys since their early days. I personally love their evolved musicianship, especially Andy Thomas not just as a writer and guitarist but his voice has dramatically improved each release. His singing sounds more pure and less forced, complimenting James’ haunting and emotional gutturals. You can hear the emotions outside of the music in Dorton’s voice and in the band in general. They have a lot to prove as a new signing on a rather large record label to more people. If you didn’t know, the 2013 EP “Song Of The Crippled Bull” was self released.
Bias and fanboying aside, I find it very difficult to find anything bad about this album. It is produced well, and their songwriting matures more and more each release. Don’t worry old school fans, they didn’t lose any edge but some might feel that way which is expected. Seeber really showed a different side of him that wasn’t his normal extreme/technical death metal side with a groovier and toned down version of what he normally plays in both of his bands. My PA boys have definitely taken the torch quietly in the progressive death metal community. If you are looking to show someone a more experimental side of death metal, BCI should be one of the first bands that pops into your head. “Violent Portraits Of Doomed Escape” is a great album that could end up being one of the better releases of the decade and definitely a top contender for the year of 2020. Again, I am heavily honored to have heard this ahead of time and help out one of my favorite bands. I want to personally thank the band for giving us a great piece of art and a modern day classic. You all are in for a serious treat, trust me.