There may have been nearly half a decade’s gap between the release of Svart Crown’s previous full-length album, Profane, and their latest record, but a lot has happened for the band in that time. The French blackened death metal band has moved from Listenable Records, who handled the release of their last two records, to Century Media Records, and has seen drummer Nico Muller and guitarist Hyrgal leave, being replaced by Kévin Paradis and Kevin Verlay respectively. Along with these practical changes for the band have arrived some stylistic changes on their latest LP, Abreaction. The four-piece’s usual left-field approach towards black metal and death metal remains as prominent as ever, but there is a notable shift towards a more progressive sound on their new record, pulling significantly from sludge metal and doom metal, whilst also exhibiting a more technical edge to their songwriting that they have to yet to display at this level. In terms of how this affects the overall sound of Abreaction, the ominous and grim atmosphere of Profane has given way to a mood that is purely evil and oppressive. The foreboding tension of the band’s previous material is still evident, but is so much more upfront as to feel as if whatever catastrophe this sinister sound was foreshadowing is already here. As it compares to their last record in terms of songwriting and musicianship, Abreaction details the band’s dexterity and distinct sound just as much as Profane, but in a rather altered way, coming across as more refined and precise. As a result, whether one feels that Abreaction is an improvement from Profane really comes down to personal preference, but on a technical level, Svart Crown’s latest album is another strong release for the group that further distinguishes them from other blackened death metal bands working the circuit today.
The sense of sheer impending doom is made abundantly clear right from the onset, with the introductory track, Golden Sacrament, phasing in as swirling noise gives way to a dark and crunchy guitar line that crawls towards the first boom as the whole band plunges into the main body of the song. It’s said that staple horror flick monsters such as zombies are made scarier by their slow movements, which has the potential to afflict a large amount of mental stress on people as a result of the emphasis on tension, and that kind of fear is exactly what I’m reminded of by this introduction. The listener knows that a sudden assault of noise, in the form of pummelling guitar tones and booming drum beats, is right around the corner, almost like the musical equivalent of a jumpscare, and this knowledge only makes the eerie guitar melody all the more chilling. When the time comes, the last whispers of slowly descending chromatic chords are interrupted by an abrupt bang of the drums before the band burst into one of the most purely doom metal passages on the entire record. The droning of searing guitar chords is accompanied by an archetypal, plodding drumbeat and roars of rumbling bass, before the composition takes an unexpected turn during the verse. The haunting guitars from the introduction are reintroduced, with vocalist, JB Le Bail’s harrowing whispers, which add another layer to the feelings of imminent peril. After another apocalyptic, trudging doom section, this time with Le Bail’s deep yells and intermittent blasts by Paradis behind the kit, however, the band peters out before some escalating, clashing guitar chords bring the song into a steady, head-banging breakdown that doesn’t feel a million miles away from that which could be found on a deathcore track. The dying moments of Golden Sacrament are defined by some tribal rhythms being played on the drums as the bass lets loose some final buzzing groans, with the song remaining menacing until the very end. Considering Svart Crown display a far more apparent influence from doom metal on Golden Sacrament than at any other point on Abreaction, it seems very likely that this song was composed as an introductory song, but it is nevertheless a strong demonstration of the band’s versatility when it comes to their stylistic roots.
The second track on the album, Carcosa, is far more typical of the group’s usual blackened death metal stylings, kicking up no fuss as the band pummels into an onslaught of blastbeats and heavy, punishing guitar chords. What makes this piece stand out, however, is the hectic breaks in tempo and rhythm that the band employs throughout their performance, remaining spotlessly tight throughout. Indeed, I was reminded of another metal band I have reviewed recently, Immolation, by this track, as the off-kilter and seemingly unrestrained approach to songwriting on Carcosa reaches similar levels of aberration and restlessness. The frequent twists and turns of a song like Orgasmic Spiritual Ecstasy display a similar willingness to cram a ridiculous amount of variation into a single track and, again, such a song is a testament of Svart Crown’s cohesiveness as a collection of musicians. This is even more evident on a track like Upon This Intimate Madness, which exhibits a degree of complexity nearing that of technical death metal, whilst still retaining a clear black metal hue. The clashing guitars are frantic and frenzied as they loosely dance over Paradis’ impressively accented and disciplined work on the skins. Ultimately, dissecting many of these compositions in any level of detail will reveal a definite influence from a number of metal artists and stylings, with the band exhibiting an undeniable level of musical knowledge, given the precision with which they execute all of these varying endeavours. Then again, this does lead to the slight restriction as a result of familiarity. Whilst Svart Crown most definitely display an admirably aware approach to myriad genres of metal, many of these cuts will often strongly evoke the work of other metal acts. I was most definitely reminded of Polish blackened death metal band Behemoth at several points on Abreaction, whilst some of the more technical stylings were rather reminiscent of the South Carolina group Nile. There are many more titbits that will likely remind listeners of one band or another and, whilst this didn’t impact on my enjoyment of the record significantly enough to prevent me from loving it, it may pose somewhat of an issue of déjà vu for some metalheads.
Ultimately, Abreaction, in many ways, comes across as Svart Crown’s most actualised full-length release thus far, particularly in the way in which it furthers the band’s exploration of broader stylistic sensibilities under the metal umbrella. Just as Profane placed a heavy emphasis on creating dark and ominous atmospheres, Abreaction sees a natural progression of these themes, leading to a release that acts as the acrimony that the group’s previous album was foreshadowing. Technically speaking, Svart Crown have clearly not suffered one bit from their line-up change between these two releases, arguably even sounding tighter than ever before. Whilst there is surely a sense of familiarity to be found in many of these tracks, with Svart Crown often wearing their influences on their sleeves, Abreaction nevertheless stands as a finely crafted blackened death metal record, with a sense of appeal that could most definitely reach metalheads of all kinds.
The Vinyl Verdict: 7.5/10