Swedish death metal veterans The Crown are back with their 10th full length album, Cobra Speed Venom, almost thirty years since their formation in 1990. Despite their longevity, the band seem to have remained largely unknown relative to their contemporaries such as In Flames, At the Gates, Soilwork and more. For the uninitiated, The Crown play an old-school thrash-centric brand of death metal with a few hints of melodeath. Think At the Gates, early Sepultura and Slayer thrown into a blender and you get a taste of the speed and aggression to be found. Dilute it with a little water, as their songwriting isn’t to the same standard as those aforementioned legends, and you have a pretty good idea for what The Crown sound like. So without further ado, let’s get into their upcoming new record!
Opener “Destroyed by Madness” immediately sets the tone, both atmospherically and musically. The track builds with ominous strings and foreboding tremolos before exploding into double kick and lightning riffs. It’s at this point that one of the record’s flaws immediately comes to the fore: the production. The production style is a little on the raw side, the tones reminiscent of what you would find in the 90s. This aesthetic fits their sound; however, when the entire band is going hell-for-leather (which is most of the time) most of the low-end becomes completely muddied in the mix. The resulting sound is akin to static, which is fine if you like listening to non-existent radio stations, but it’s distracting if you’re trying to give their riffs your full attention. The band fall short when going for a big memorable chorus, but the track is partially salvaged by some nice chunky riffs in the bridge. As we progress through the record, we find this to be a recurring theme: occasionally we get a killer riff, but it’s surrounded by too much which is simply run-of-the-mill.
On a more positive note, the band are close to their best when channelling their inner Slayer, with “Necrohammer” and the middle section of “Iron Crown” showcasing some furious riffage. Further highlights include “In the Name of Death”, which annihilates you right from the outset, the more melodically inclined death metal of “We Avenge!” and the consistently strong “World War Machine”. The second last track sees one of the first change-ups, with “Where My Grave Shall Stand” a slower, instrumental track. Some tasty guitar licks do the trick, and the track comes at a nice time: giving the listener some rest before the final onslaught of “The Sign of the Scythe”. Here, too, we have a slightly doomy intro before exploding back into the thrash. Whilst we haven’t mentioned the vocals until now, that’s because there isn’t much report. They’re exactly what you’d expect, harsh vocals throughout, delivered with power and a bit of bark.
In conclusion, Cobra Speed Venom is a solid album with some great moments. There are some strong riffs to be found, good vocals with excellent diction, and plenty to which you can bang your head. That said, it just doesn’t quite come together as a whole. Many of the riffs are unremarkable, and even then the production often does them a disservice. Some of the songs can blend together, but hey, if you just want some old-school tunes that you don’t need to think twice about then The Crown will serve you well.
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Cobra Speed Venom will be released March 16th through Metal Blade Records, and is available for pre-order through the band’s Bandcamp page.