BlackCrownInitiateArtworkA couple of years ago some noisy factions of the Angry Metal Guy readership kicked up a stink by our lack of coverage of the debut LP from promising Pennsylvanian deathsters Black Crown Initiate. Following the over-the-top acclaim for The Wreckage of Stars, a fine full-length debut loaded with potential, the boys return with the crucial and much anticipated follow-up, Selves We Cannot Forgive. Sophomore albums are often tricky propositions, especially in the wake of a well received debut, with expectations heightened and added pressure difficult to squash. The Wreckage of Stars nicely developed the distinctive modern metal formula the band established on their Song of a Crippled Bull EP, combining technical and aggressive modern death metal with clean vocal hooks and a strong progressive bent. Black Crown Initiate’s ambitious sophomore album pushes boundaries and looks set to polarize their growing fanbase, proving a challenging stumbling block for some listeners.

Trading much of the in-your-face aggression and speed for a more restrained, melodic and introspective delivery, the transformation from a death metal focused outfit into more of a muscular death-tinged prog metal band, finds Black Crown Initiate delicately treading a fine line between experimentation, progression and accessibility. On one side of the coin you have a young band willing to fuck adventurously with their own system, but on the flipside the edgy potency and directness that made The Wreckage of Stars so refreshing has been smoothed over and progified. Selves We Cannot Forgive features significantly more prog-foolery and clean melodic passages, cushioned by heavier bursts of knotty prog metal, yet it’s also a darker, more complex turn from the band. Execution may be inconsistent and occasionally jolting, but when Black Crown Initiate hit pay-dirt their hooky formula remains compelling. “For Red Cloud” welds elements new and old into a rugged, discordant structure that pushes the right buttons dynamically. While album highlight “Transmit to Disconnect” is complex and tightly performed, contorting, blasting and grooving in refreshingly heavy and dynamic ways (more of this please), topped with a killer solo. It’s the most complete song on the album and a promising sign for the times ahead.

Epic and ambitious, “Belie the Machine” aims high and mostly succeeds, featuring a extremely catchy clean chorus, impressive guitar work and noodly explorations anchored by grinding, dissonant metallic assaults. The vocal ratio of growls vs cleans has also balanced out, with the sweetly addictive clean vocals of guitarist Andy Thomas more pronounced. Though his melodies sometimes veer into overly airy territory, threatening blood sugar levels, he’s responsible for some rousing moments. However the melody-heavy tunes that exemplify the album’s overall cleaner restraint, such as the melancholic “Sorrowpsalm,” title track and meandering closing ballad “Vicious Lives” are a mixed bag. While the songs don’t always stick the guitar work is inventive, technical and consistently impressive, merged into less predictable and experimental song structures. Frequently strange, off-kilter harmonies and interesting melodies are undercut with jaggedly dissonant metal riffs, tasty solos and fistfuls of meaty groove. “Again” even shows-off some primo jazz-infected shredding with a cool improv feel.

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Black Crown Initiate’s evolving and ambitious vision is still coming to fruition and Selves We Cannot Forgive’s numerous bright spots are darkened by jarring and uneven songwriting. With former The Faceless guitarist Wes Hauch recently joining the fold it will be interesting to see where the band develops their sound from here. Lengthwise the album is slightly shorter than its predecessor, however the individual songs average out longer, with several guilty of overstaying their welcome. Selves We Cannot Forgive also benefits from a fuller, tighter production job buffered by a solid mix. Unfortunately the compressed mastering squashes the dynamics considerably, restricting the breathing space required for the increased soft-loud dynamics and quieter passages to reach full potential.

Despite ample strong points and inspiring ambition,  Selves We Cannot Forgive is a slight letdown in the wake of the impressive The Wreckage of Stars, requiring more focus and cohesion. However, I remain optimistic about the band’s future and the album’s depth and subtleties have potential to grow on me in the months ahead. With more time to develop their new-found style Black Crown Initiate could very well win me over more convincingly next time around. Until then, Selves We Cannot Forgive is a solid, flawed and occasionally very good album that ultimately signals a transitional phase for a band experiencing some growing pains.


Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: eOne Music
Websites: blackcrowninitiate.bandcamp.com  | facebook.com/BlackCrownInitiate
Releases Worldwide: July 22nd, 2016

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  • André Snyde Lopes

    Brickwall city, population: 2, so far. Wreckage of Stars was a great album as well, completely ruined by the engineer who took a massive dump on the band’s work.

    Musically, I really liked the first track in their debut, one of my favorite songs from two years ago. But that mastering, good golly…

    • Dethjesta

      Couldn’t agree more. So much talent and promise here, but until they get an engineer who understands what this music needs it’s always going to be lacking.

  • Monsterth Goatom

    That’s a good pic of Albrecht, but I like this one better:

    • Iain Gleasure

      this man has robbed the uffizi.

    • Innit Bartender

      Also, the author of the two most important black metal imageries of forever:

  • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

    I’ve tried to listen to this album as proggy death metal and as ever so slightly death-tinged, slow prog, but it just ain’t sitting with me.
    I wasn’t all over Wreckage either, but I expected the band to harvest their potential better.
    I guess they did, just not in a way I’d like. This is bordering on a bad album, as far as I am concerned.

    • Joe Rico

      You sir are difficult no please. I find this release a refreshing slab of Death tinged prog and or prog tinged death depending on the passage. Stench Of The Stone Age pulled me in and the rest of their material is just as good if you dig in. The DR could be much better but I guess we can’t have it all.

  • Goldicot

    I picketed outside the train station when Black Crown Initiate’s hype train was boarding, and I still don’t get why people are on the ride by this album. I find it aggressively uninteresting.

    • PLEASE PLEASE listen to “Songs of the Crippled Bull” EP. It’s on Bandcamp.

      • Wushu D

        Stfu already, upvoting your own shit.

    • AddicoInABox

      I couldn’t agree more; it boggles my mind they’re so popular. That weird 6 month period where they seemed to be opening every damn tour was annoying as hell, hopefully this album cycle doesn’t see a repeat of that. Its like if periphery and dark tranquillity had a baby, but that baby was aborted.

  • Morrowind542

    That DR score hurts my soul…

  • Alexandre Barata

    Found it rather bland. Good moments, average album at best.

  • Hammersmith

    Wasn’t a huge fan of Wreckage of Stars. But I wanted to be, because that is really awesome album title.

  • Reese Burns

    The wheels fall off right in the middle of this album, if you ask me. The singles they released, For Red Cloud, the title track and Vicious Lives are the ones that stuck with me the most, and other than Belie the Machine, none of the others really do anything for me. Which is a shame, since I loved Wreckage of Stars.

  • Reese Burns

    Side note: That album cover is really cool.

  • This record is a BIG let down for me.

    Frankly, their first EP was insanely good and verything after that has been meh to slightly above meh. I really don’t know what happened.

    Please note: The HDTracks version is a DR6 with some tracks hitting DR7 so it should theoretically sound a bit better. But frankly, this band deserves a lot more dynamics across the board.

    • Reese Burns

      To me, half of this album is as good as the EP, but the rest is just disappointing.

    • Wushu D

      You’re a clown, shit ears and opinions.

  • SegaGenitals

    BCI and Rivers of Nihil are similar in that they have wonderfully talented musicians who struggle to showcase their chops with convincing compositional structure and narrative. Give em’ a couple more albums to mature, and I expect a real magnum opus.

  • Zac Melvin-McNutt

    Was a huge fan of their EP and The Wreckage of Stars so my expectations were sky high for this one. Definitely a colossal letdown, not the direction I had hoped they’d go. The honest perspective in this review is refreshing. Almost every other review for this album has been hailing it as perfect. It isn’t, not even close.

  • Just saw them at Reggie’s Rock Club in Chicago. Very impressive. The guitar tone absolutely destroyed. And the headliners, Ne Obliviscaris, weren’t too bad either! My dumbness somehow found me purchasing the debut twice (once digitally and then I grabbed the disc at the show thinking it was the new one). In my defense, it was pretty dark. *forehead slap*

    • SegaGenitals

      Weren’t too bad either, he says…

  • Black Phone

    I’ve listened through the album twice and aside from a glitch in ‘For Red Cloud’ and ‘Again’ where the songs cut off with a minute of blank space (at least on the Amazon MP3 and cloud versions), I’m really liking this album.

    Both their EP and Wreckage of Stars were great, but I’m enjoying this one even more.

    The cleans are awesome as are the growls, you can hear the bass and it’s wonderful, and there’s a lot of experimentation that pushes the songs in good places rather than nowhere.

    My only other negative is the fact the band never sent me my t-shirt after crowdfunding their van campaign. :(

    4 out of 5

  • Alex Benedict

    saw them live a couple weeks ago with NeO. The clean vocals were definitely not good live. And they didn’t play withering waves, so the set was invalid. Still pretty good though

    • SegaGenitals

      They definitely beef up his clean vocals in studio.

  • The more I listen to this release, the more I like it. I think the next few albums will be ones to remember.