northern-crown_the-othersWhen I saw the promo descriptor for Northern Crown‘s debut, The Others listing it as “epic doom,” I took a flyer and grabbed it. You never know when you’ll stumble across the next While Heaven Wept or Atlantean Kodex, and I’d want to plunder all the glorious metal cred such a discovery would impart, while lording it over staff members in the AMG break room. So is this the doom juggernaut you’ve been waiting for? I can’t formulate the beginnings of a sensible answer to that question. Northern Crown is one of the most offbeat, unpredictable doom bands I’ve heard, and though there are moments of truly epical gloom present, this dusty trunk is tough to get a handle on, full as it is with strange relics defying identification, classification and pigeonholing. If you want doom that flies a freak flag, here it is.

The genius of this thing is how it sucks you in with an opener full of nods to Solitude Aeturnus, Candlemass and While Heaven Wept. Opener “With Malicious Eye” plums the depths of those doom stalwarts and revels in genre norms while executing the style very well. Vocalist Frank Serafine is a dead ringer for Rob Lowe (Solitude Aeturnus, Candlemass) and delivers his weighty lines with all appropriate anguish and sadness. Follow up “Surreality (The Tell-Tale Mind)” lures you further into a false sense of security with rich Hammond organs and a more rocking yet still orthodox variant of doom.

It’s not until “No One Came to Mourn Me” that the metaphorical rug gets yanked, introducing weird electronica and 80s style synths to what is a very downtrodden ode to alienation and loneliness. There’s a Woods of Ypres vibe present as Serafine delivers uber-depressive lyrics about human isolation and death, and just when things are poised to get even grimmer, this weird, upbeat techno line kicks in and tears at the very fabric of the song. It’s such an odd addition from out of left field, it’s tough to know what to make of it. Madam X says it sounds like someone was playing Ms. Pac-Man in the corner as they recorded and she’s not wrong. Oddly, it doesn’t entirely derail the song, which is actually quite poignant, arcade overflow and all.

ms-pac-man“Apostate” starts life as a stripped down Kamelot-esque ballad before coming to a halt and restarting as a classic doom tune, and “A Pox Upon Your House” is a folksy, Hexvessel-like instrumental loaded with synths, piano and strings. The cornerstone of this weird platter is the 11-minute closer “Les Autres” which touches upon everything from spacey hippie jams, vintage doom, and even black metal before finally giving up its well-used ghost. It kicks off with 70s flavored Hammond organ runs that remind me of The Omega Man soundtrack before moving into traditional doom territory with slow riffs counterpointed by sweetly melancholy leads. The discerning listener will also detect a strong Kamelot vibe running through the writing and vocals and this mix of styles makes the mid-paced plod quite interesting. Things don’t get too weird until the 8-minute mark where they introduce faster tempos, crowd chants, hysterical soloing, harsh screams and death croaks. It feels like the same kitchen sink approach While Heaven Wept attempted on their last album, but it works and the 11-minutes flies by.

As weird as things get at times, there are no weak songs. While I wasn’t sure what to make of this at first, I’m oddly fixated on it and keep spinning it and it gets better as I do. There’s an occasional awkward transition and the Pac-Man thing still baffles me, but this is a really entertaining experimental doom album that scores big on originality. The Others sounds great too. It has a full, rich mix and there’s a warm depth to everything that reminds me of a prog-rock album recorded in the 70s.

northern-crown_2016

I’m impressed with Frank Serafine’s vocals. He has the Rob Lowe thing going on but does a convincing Roy Khan bit too and even his blackened roars are respectable. His commanding presence binds the material together even when it falls down the rabbit hole into Bizarro World. A lesser vocalist couldn’t pull that off, so kudos are in order. The guitar tandem of Zachary Randall and Leona Hayward also acquit themselves very well, crafting quality doom riffs, classy leads and forlorn harmonies. Some of the solo work is outright gorgeous and makes me wonder why these cats aren’t signed by someone already. Randall’s keyboard work is also quite impressive and I’m even willing to consider the electronica mishap a mere blip on the screen.

The Others is a big blob of odd, but doom fans should definitely get their hands on it. It’s fueled this month’s break room braggadocio and I’m genuinely intrigued to see where the band goes from here. I hope they find that label deal they so richly deserve.


Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 12 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: Self-Released
Websites: northerncrownband.com | northerncrownband.com
Releases Worldwide: October 14th, 2016

 

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  • metalcasket

    Been a major AMG (and Steel Druhm) fan for years now, but I have no clue why I’ve never posted here before. All I know is I need to stop visiting this site before I go fucking broke. Pre-ordered. >_>

    Oh, and there’s a link to a song off the album here: http://www.metalunderground.com/news/details.cfm?newsid=127644

    • Thanks for the readership and support. Start commenting, you shy bastard!

      • metalcasket

        Will do. You have my word (and my axe)!

    • Zachary Randall

      Thanks for the support! Made my day when I saw a preorder come in!

      • Awesome stuff, Zachary. Hope it sells well.

        • Zachary Randall

          Thanks, dude. I just want as many people as possible to hear it. It’s not easy slipping Ms. Pac-Man into a doom record, I want to show off my mad producer skillz.

          • Ha!

          • Bart the Repairman

            Superb mix. Made me crank the phones vol knob to absolute maximum, FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME. And instead of bleeding from every hole in my head, I feel fucking pleased. What other stuff did you produced?

          • Zachary Randall

            The first Northern Crowd record, my old black metal band, along with some local Miami bands. This is, bar none, the best sound I’ve ever got out of a record. I’m pretty proud of how I’ve progressed as an audio engineer over the last 5 years.

      • metalcasket

        Well, this just made MY day. :) I don’t think I was more than a couple of minutes into “Les Autres” before I paused it, headed over to Bandcamp and pre-ordered the album.

        • Zachary Randall

          Man, that makes me so happy. We’re a completely self-funded, self-supported band…it’s really awesome if our music connects with even one person.

          • metalcasket

            Hopefully Carter and I have gotten the ball rolling and the pre-orders and purchases start pouring in. If nothing else, you being as awesomely humble as you are deserves all the support in the world. m/

          • Zachary Randall

            I’m just some dude in Ft. Lauderdale that tunes low and plays slow. Got no reason to be anything other than humble!

      • sir_c

        That track metalcasket posted is fucking ripper! I do like me some doom now and then and this song ticks an awful lot of boxes. Me likes!

  • Monsterth Goatom

    OMFG, it’s true! AMG is reviewing Techno! A plague o’… your [house]!

  • Monsterth Goatom

    Wilderun likewise have yet to be signed. Let’s hope there’s some justice for great, hard-working bands.

    • AlphaBetaFoxface

      Finding a label is like finding a wife. If it’s forced, she probably ain’t good enough. The right one will come along eventually, one who can handle Wilderun’s stunning capacity.

      This is my aged wisdom speaking here, as someone who has never been married and legally can’t drink in the US.

      • Monsterth Goatom

        Ha, another reason to visit Canada (when you’re 18, if not so already)! When I was between 18 and 21, it always felt weird to travel to the states and find myself unable buy or drink alcohol.

        • Hulksteraus

          I can remember in 96 heading over to the States as a 20 year old and still couldn’t buy alcahol… As someone from Down Under, that caused serious withdrawal symptoms and required me to get others to buy me my “F%&!ing close to water” beer…

          • AlphaBetaFoxface

            The exact same thing happened to me last year when I moved to California for the year. Was gonna celebrate my 18th with a beer (as I myself am also Australian). Don’t understand why you can do basically anything but drink when you turn 18 over there but ya know. ‘Murica.

      • Hulksteraus

        Damn, that means I am more than twice your age…

    • Dr. Wvrm

      I’d do it myself if I had the funds. Maybe we could start our own label or something.

      • Hulksteraus

        “Angry Metal Records tm” – am off to the Patent Office to copyrite that name right now before Angry Metal Guy sends Steely D round with the boys to enforce the Angry Metal patent in their usual way…

        • The arm of Steel is long.

          • Hulksteraus

            Records Ov Steel then? Or would that be an overthrow of the overlord?

          • sir_c

            Lande ov Metal it would be called. Music is a jorny you know…

    • The Nerd.

      Trials broke up without ever getting with a record label. Music industry is just so fucking cruel sometimes.

      Let’s hope Wilderun gets the credit they deserve.

      • Yeah, Dr. Fisting got jobbed on that one.

        • The Nerd.

          I do feel for him. Hopefully his next project is as good.

          • Black Sites is mixing the debut now. It sounds really good from what I heard.

          • Monsterth Goatom

            Is Dr. Fisting actually reviewing anymore, or has he gone the way of Noctus?

          • He just reviewed the Operation Mindcrime album. He’s still around and active.

          • Monsterth Goatom

            Dumb me. I’m so observant. Thanks. Good to hear.

          • Eli Valcik

            well thats good, I l enjoy his reviews.

          • The Nerd.

            Can’t wait for it!

      • Eli Valcik

        lets hope someone recognizes their talent

      • Steven Cannon

        Lol… If I had a dollar for every story like that I’ve ever heard, I’d be fucking rich… But then again, having been in the music magazine business for 25 years now (business being a somewhat interesting choice of words), I’ve seen a ton of these stories… Aphotic struggling, releasing three or four great albums with no label support, Earthen Grave calling it quits… Damn…

    • Reaper

      Yeah, it is a shame. I saw them live and they were great. Sadly Evan doesn’t play the Mandolin live, he switches to an electric guitar.

    • Oscar Albretsen

      That album (Sleep at the Edge) was decent, but a bit overrated by this site. Nothing against it, just never thought it was AOTY material.

  • AlphaBetaFoxface

    Glad I wasn’t the only person who took the “epic doom” bait on the promo list.

    That being said, my consensus with members of my sub-conscious is a 3.0.

    • Way better than a 3.0.

      • AlphaBetaFoxface

        Fite me old man, one game of trucco for the rights to an objectively correct opinion (and maybe a camel).

        • I’ll fite anybody for a camel.

          • AlphaBetaFoxface

            I trust only you would haze over the rights to pure objectivity in order to make clear your love for camels.

            Which begs the question, why camels?

          • They’re so purdy.

          • sir_c

            cos nothing beats a camel toe

  • Reese Burns

    That DR 12 is awful nice.

    • Monsterth Goatom

      Oooh, missed that. Looking forward to hearing this.

    • Zachary Randall

      There’s another review on another site where the reviewer mentioned that some parts are too quiet. I got a chuckle out of that.

      • Reese Burns

        Oh man, I seriously hope they were joking.

        • Zachary Randall

          I’m pretty sure it was meant quite seriously. Reviews can be weird things, especially on sites without much editorial oversight. I refer to myself as the “Chief Doomologist” of the band a few places in social media and one person that reviewed the first album took it SUPER seriously and was rather taken aback.

          • Reese Burns

            Well for what it’s worth, I think it sounds fantastic, and will definitely order my copy on my next payday.

          • Reese Burns

            Also, is there someone I can email about having a copy signed when I buy it?

          • Zachary Randall

            Use the contact link on our bandcamp page, that will email directly to me. Not sure when we’ll have the physical release, there’s been a delay on the final artwork. :(

          • Reese Burns

            No sweat! I’ll keep an eye open for sure.

  • DR12? The look I made on my face when I saw that was probably ghastly. Can’t wait for this next week.

    • Is it possible y’all got a different master or the DR measurement is off somewhere? I measured DR5 on the Bandcamp FLACs through the foobar plugin.

      • I’m using Foobar as we do for most of the DR ratings and I’m getting a 12 with some songs reaching 14.

        • Interesting! I really wonder if y’all got a different master, as I ran the Bandcamp FLACs through the foobar meter twice and then through the standalone meter, and keep getting these exact results:

          foobar2000 1.3.9 / Dynamic Range Meter 1.1.1
          log date: 2016-10-14 03:05:13

          ——————————————————————————–
          Analyzed: Northern Crown / The Others
          ——————————————————————————–

          DR Peak RMS Duration Track
          ——————————————————————————–
          DR5 -0.09 dB -7.80 dB 7:16 01-With Malicious Eye
          DR5 -0.18 dB -6.61 dB 5:48 02-Surreality (The Tell-Tale Mind)
          DR6 -0.17 dB -8.47 dB 6:10 03-No One Came To Mourn Me
          DR5 -0.17 dB -7.57 dB 7:57 04-Apostate
          DR4 -0.29 dB -6.58 dB 3:50 05-A Pox Upon Your House
          DR4 -0.12 dB -6.38 dB 11:02 06-Les Autres
          ——————————————————————————–

          Number of tracks: 6
          Official DR value: DR5

          Samplerate: 44100 Hz
          Channels: 2
          Bits per sample: 16
          Bitrate: 1010 kbps
          Codec: FLAC
          ================================================================================

          A bit disappointed I’m not getting DR12 (I imported Witherscape’s Northern Sanctuary deluxe edition after already buying the CD just to get the dynamic mix, and it was worth it) but the album’s still really good. I like a nice, punchy ~40 minute album. And the Pac-Man stuff in the middle worked a lot better than it should have.

          • Not sure what to tell you there. I get the same reading of 12 and you can hear it in the mix. The first thing one of the other AMG writers asked me after hearing this was “how high is the DR, it sounds awesome!” It’s a great mix job.

          • Zachary Randall

            The only difference I can imagine is this: The mp3s that AMG or other sites get were encoded from wav to mp3 by me. The FLACs from Bandcamp have gone through their encoding process. Once I get home this evening, I’ll compare the various versions and see what I come up with. I HOPE bandcamp isn’t screwing w/ our mastering.

          • Odd! I get the same result with Bandcamp’s WAVs as I do with the FLACs and converting the FLACs to WAVs. I’m still hoping it’s just my machine, but I’ve double-checked plenty of other identical results before on the DR database, so…who knows?

          • Mcleod

            Nope it’s not your machine, I downloaded the Album from Bandcamp as well and I can confirm it is DR5, which is disappointing indeed because it doesn’t sound awesome at all. :(

          • Hey, was there any update on what happened with the Bandcamp album?

  • Eli Valcik

    is Record of the Month late this month because Opeth released their album on the 30th?

    • Record(s) o’ the Month for September will be along eventually.

      • Eli Valcik

        I don’t mean to ask for a review, but what is your opinion on The Sword. I only ask because I have tickets to see Opeth live and The Sword is opening up for them. I was a big fan of their old albums but I’m not to sure about their newest one.

        • Personally I’m not a fan and since we didn’t get a promo from The Sword we will not be reviewing them.

          • Eli Valcik

            ok, I just wanted to know what I was getting myself into.

          • They aren’t bad, just kinda dull.

          • Monsterth Goatom

            Their whole catalogue? Maybe it’s because they were one of the groups I latched on to when I was getting into metal, but their early stuff is quite powerful for me.

          • I’ve never been impressed by them.

          • Eli Valcik

            they have some decent riffs, and I like their fantasy lyrics, me being a fantasy nerd. But I do get your point

          • Carlos Marrickvillian

            Pretty decent ZZ top cover on Warp Riders too

          • Eli Valcik

            same

        • Monsterth Goatom

          I’m still a big fan of Apocryphon and Warp Riders, but 2015’s High Country did nothing for me.

          • Eli Valcik

            couldn’t of said better myself

        • I didn’t think much of their live show I saw. Their music reminded me of Pearl Jam. Seattle-based bands can’t let go of grunge.

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      Who?

  • Lord Lucan

    The bloke on the album art looks like Dexter Holland and the guy from Die Antwoord mashed into one person.

    On topic, anything Woods of Ypres-ish is probably a win in my book. I look forward to setting some time aside to give this the attention it sounds as though it deserves.

    • Zachary Randall

      I think our cover artist based the guy on the cover on himself, although I don’t have confirmation of that. Just looks like he needs a little sun.

  • Dr. A.N. Grier

    Really digging this release.

    • Eli Valcik

      me too, based off the one song I am able to listen too right now.

      • Zachary Randall

        We’ve actually got two tracks streaming. Metal Underground is hosting “Les Autres” and Sludgelord is hosting “With Malicious Eye”. Glad you’re digging it

    • sir_c

      Digging as in AOTM digging? That split face cover would do just nicely on the front page, methinks

      • Dr. A.N. Grier

        It may be AotM for me…

  • Kill The King

    Umm. Where’s the new Opeth review? Gojira? Meshuggah? Brutally Deceased? AMG is the only metal site I recommend.

    • 3 of those will be arriving shortly.

      • Kill The King

        Holy shit I got a Druhm reply!! Thanks man! Also I’m going to assume Gojira is the one not getting a review.

        • Nailed it!

          • Kill The King

            Neato!!

          • Eli Valcik

            did not like their new album

          • Kill The King

            I think their last one got 5/5 which is why I’m surprised the new one didn’t get a review.

          • Eli Valcik

            well their last album was good, but me not knowing anything about AMG’s review schedule I don’t entirely know why its not getting a review

          • No promo, no review.

  • Zachary Randall

    BTW, there’s a typo in the article. You refer to “Apostate” as “Apostle” :)

    • I’ll fix that.

    • sir_c

      oh well, it’s both something with religion ‘n stuff, eh :-)

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Nice review mr Druhm.
    This sounds interesting and love the DR12 master job I will definitely be checking this out

  • Treble Yell

    Experimental doom, eh? Why must you flense my credit card, Steel?
    NB: The logo really reminds me of Novembers Doom.

    • Dr. Wvrm

      Whoa, good call.

    • Zachary Randall

      I never would have thought to describe us as Experimental Doom, but I’ll gladly take the label!

  • Matt slatz

    I like the sound of this, planning to buy. I like the little bit of off kilter ideas introduced to a doom album,. Sometimes that genre is too predictable.

    • Zachary Randall

      I knew when I was wrapping up production on the album that it was definitely weird. I’m glad it’s turned out to be weird in a good way.

  • Matt slatz

    My 2 cents on the cover art:. An aged Ivan Drago looking at a burnt reflection of himself (f.y.i. I like it)

    • Zachary Randall

      I actually hadn’t thought of that, the idea of the cover being someone seeing a charred reflection of themselves, but that’s a good take on it.

      • Matt slatz

        Thanks Zachary, my wife says I can’t see anything anymore lol guess she’s wrong….good luck on album

  • Deadpoetdied

    Can the good and angry people of AMG review the new Meshuggah? I can’t wait to hear from the best written metal blog in ze internet.

  • GrandmasterB

    Speaking of being reminded of prog-rock albums recorded in the 70s, when will this site be graced by the image of colorful plumage and a bloody beak? Sorry, couldn’t resist.

  • Ben Harris

    Got my pre-order in! I like the two songs that are streaming. I’m excited to hear the pacman section.

    • Zachary Randall

      The electronic song is super cool. It’s a nice contrast both in style and lyrical theme to the rest of the NC material

  • Akira Watts

    There is no better sign that I’ll like an album than a review that manages to be both positive yet also a little confused. Looking forward to this one.

    • Zachary Randall

      Dude, I was a little confused while making the record, so the review makes perfect sense!

  • sir_c

    Now that I’ve been able to listen to the album for a whole day, I wonder if this is what it would sound like when Tiamat and Mercyful Fate would join forces and start a Candlemass cover band.
    Oh, and to be clear, this is meant as a compliment.

    It is quite surprising that so many odd style combinations can still make such a coherent album.

    • As I spun it I kept thinking all this shouldn’t work together.

      • sir_c

        It’s not weird as in Zappa-weird, but it’s rather some unusual ingredients that work out pretty well together in an unexpected way. Just like strawberries with white pepper for example.

        • I can’t opine on the strawberry/pepper thing, but While Heaven Wept tried this same kind of pairing on their last album and to me it sounded cluttered and forced. Here it doesn’t for whatever reason.

          • sir_c

            Try it, I once had it in a restaurant. It is really astonishing what a little ground pepper does to an already delicious strawberry.
            Back to the music, I agree on the weeping part.

        • Zachary Randall

          If I might offer an opinion, I think it works because we have a sole songwriter. I also usually have a vague theme I’m operating on during an album…it sort of makes everything stick together

  • some dude

    “I read tomes on sodomy, often lost and never found”. and yet NO ONE came to mourn the guy. I’m sad now.