Slow it a bit, tune it down, strip it of all its accents, hide the emphasis behind a wall of sonic venom and just let it go for an hour: Psychurgy will reveal its disturbing beauty in more than just one way. CROWN is a French duo and they don’t reinvent the wheel and likely never actually dared to think they could. If you’ve had the pleasure to get hold of their recent debut EP – The One, then you know these guys are serious when it comes to carefully handling their frequencies. Psychurgy is surely a step forward in terms of sound and composition: the repetitions are still there, the slowly violent love affair with drone continues to monopolise the dynamics and the sludgy aesthetics of a doom wandering away from metal is still a persisting presence.
Expecting a proper evolution in the space of just a few months would have been unfair and ethically wrong, and for this reason the duo from Colmar, Alsace (a land perennially hanging in the balance between two cultures) keeps on working on what had made The One a solid debut without revolutionising its principles. People comparing CROWN to Sunn O))) have probably never heard one of the two bands, maybe neither of them. While Steven O’Malley’s ensemble builds each song on slow repetitions in order to make their beautiful monotony the exoskeleton of their music, CROWN simply use chromatic reiteration to complement the overall atmosphere built by the sum of their instruments [My brain hurts now—Steel Druhm]. The balance (once again) between melody and anger is a fragile result that the band manages to achieve and keep throughout the whole album.
The drum machine is essentially a tool deprived of all expressivity in order to keep the sound as simple and as clear as possible. Tracks like “Abyss” or “Telepath” hardly change their rhythmic patterns once, while the guitars follow intricate textures constantly preserving their inclination for monolithic moods, whatever they are.
Whenever they’re not busy delivering “the sound of a molten universe collapsing” (to use their own words), the French duo can be heard building a tension (“Empress / Hierophant” and “Psychokinesy II” above all) that gives rise to an industrial/ambient atmosphere depicting a desolate landscape we all know because we have all been there [Detroit?— Steel Druhm].
And that is the main problem with CROWN’s Psychurgy. Names like Isis and Godflesh are dangerously close to their music in ways that must be absolutely fine with anyone missing Aaron Turner’s most popular artistic output. But which end up leaving the rest of us rather indifferent. A track like “Blood Runs”, for instance, pays a heavy tribute to Isis almost without challenging our pre-existing idea of the Bostonians.
All in all, Psychurgy is a good effort that will surely feature in someone’s Top 5 or 10 at the end of the current year, but which also manages to leave us wanting for more in terms of experimentation and novelty. A healthy walk off the beaten path would have made Psychurgy a much more interesting album, but I can assure you, this record is still an enjoyable listen. Yours truly would be rather happy and intrigued to see them live, where they can dilute their sound, take their time, slow it a bit and tune it down until we all see what CROWN really is all about.