Svart Crown - Abreaction“Malevolence.” That word resonated through my mind as I listened to the fourth full-length by French death/black outfit Svart Crown. A word so mundane and exploited in adjective-laden reviews that it appears frivolous when used to describe metal.1 Yet, when Abreaction is concerned, the seeping and creeping feeling suggested by the word seems almost palpable, venturing beyond just a cool appellation and into territories of real unease. The album as a whole is defined by it as each riff, drum hit, and growl is imbued with this foreboding sensation of distilled evil.

Clearly, Abreaction continues where 2013’s Profane left off, pushing Svart Crown’s sound towards a more progressive and atmospheric zenith, relenting from the constant attack, and instead opting to include a variety of metallic influences. The tempos are motley. Guitars swirl from twisting, Nile-like modal riffs and minor harmonies to grumbling roars of tremolos and solo squeals. Blast beats are pushed aside by spastic, tribal rhythms. Vocals morph through a melange of styles, touching upon clean lines before lurching into bestial growls. Not by accident, the introductory “Golden Sacrament” serves as a good example of such an approach. It leads the way with a crunchy, slowly rolling cadence sprinkled with whispered vocals and an atmosphere reminiscent of doom death groups, only to shift into a maniacal roll, foreboding and crushing. It makes for an interesting piece whose exact style won’t be repeated afterwards while its multifariousness becomes a trait inherited by most of the tracks on the record.

Instead, the band launches into a sort of black, death, et al. metal jukebox. They hit extremely hard and fast on “Carcosa,” one of the best songs on the record. They turn almost completely to doom metal on “The Pact: To the Devil His Due” with chanted, polyphonic-sounding vocal lines added for variety. Finally, they resort to their trademark insanely contorted rhythms and riffs played blazingly fast and aggressive on “Upon This Intimate Madness” and “Khimba Rites,” a track which threatens to fold into itself. Apart from two shorter (and superfluous) instrumental interludes, “Tentaction” — a Fantômas meets spaghetti western OST affair — and “Lwas,” the flow and general mood of the record remain uninterrupted. The climax of it all comes in the form of the last tune “Nganda,” a cut which exudes a monumental sound built on the basis of warped, out-of-control riffs and equally impressive leads and solos.

Svart Crown 2017

Unfortunately, the diversity that Svart Crown toy with carries a baggage of clear influences in their sound. Morbid Angel, Nile, Behemoth, Belphegor, and Incantation are sometimes cited a bit too directly for comfort and the formulaic nature of some of the songs is evident. While they never, of course, venture into straight mimicry, it’s hard to shake the “I’ve heard it before” feeling. This is especially true of “Orgasmic Spiritual Ecstasy,” “Transsubstantiation” — which fails to capture attention despite neat tempo changes and Eld-era Enslaved riffing — and “Emphatic Illusion,” a tired triptych found near the edge of the record. These cuts become taxing through repetition and their dryness is emphasized by the quality of what came before them. Yet, despite these shortcomings and plodding passages, the malevolence prevails in the dark overtones of the songs, their (personally universal) lyrics, and the gusto with which Svart Crown delivers them. While the band had it’s fair share of lineup changes in recent years (drummer Kévin Paradis and guitarist Kevin Verlay of Agressor replace Nico Muller and Clément Flandrois), this had no impact on the quality of the songwriting as Svart Crown still feels as mainly JB Le Bail’s child. Similarly consistent are the production and mastering that envelop this massively vicious sound, courtesy of Francis Caste.

In many ways, Abreaction is Svart Crown’s crowning achievement.2 It’s a sublimation of all the stylistic paths that Le Bail and co. have explored so far, and a further step towards the throne of the most reliable and enjoyable blackened death metal act out there. While it wears thin at times, Abreaction still ranks amongst the best death metal releases of the year so far. May we not wait another four years for a follow-up.


Rating: Very Good
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Century Media Records
Websites: svartcrown.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/SVARTCROWN
Release Dates: EU: 2017.03.03 | NA: 03.17.2017

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Andy Synn notes something similar about the term “heavy” in his review of the band’s previous release, Profane
  2. I had to, I’m sorry.

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  • Diego Molero

    “Very Good?”, that’s new.

    • sir_c

      It is?

      • Roquentin

        Fixed the typo, wrecked your whole shtick. Ha!

        • sir_c

          Me havs seens its! Diego is here to testify!

          • DrewMusic

            What has been seen cannot be unseen?

          • sir_c

            Yes? It will remain forever?

          • DrewMusic

            Are we in agreement, then?

  • This album is really incredible, Might probably become my favorite from the band very soon. Clearly an AotY contender for me. I love these guys. Among those bands that in no way can disappoint you. French metal is killing it. Good review!

  • Pimpolho

    Is Joe Duplantier featured in this song? It really sounds like him at the end.

    • Roquentin

      Nope. No guests on the record, but JB Le Bail’s a pretty versatile vocalist.

      • Pimpolho

        He really really is, then.

  • gus rodrigues

    enjoyed their previous one quite a bit. I will certainly buy this one, despite the question mark in the rating.

  • DrewMusic

    No, Roquentin, we’re asking YOU what the rating is, it’s kind of why we’re here.

  • Kronos

    I’ve been meaning too check out these guys, and your excellent review means I probably finally will.

  • Roquentin

    I’ve been set up! I rated it “Very Good”, no question marks! I think?

    • Just wondered you never mentioned about Ulcerate or Deathpell Omega on your review , because the first thing comes to mind is the complexity of the work, and yes you should mention Meshuggah as well if you want to sell this album to the right people!

      • Roquentin

        I hear maybe a tiny bit of Ulcerate and DSO in their sound, but it’s negligible and most likely accidental. Their older records were more convoluted in that way.

        The connection with Meshuggah you seem to suggest I don’t hear at all.

  • Hell yes, another record I had no idea was coming, the preview track sounds beastly

  • Thatguy

    This is a consistently good band, and this sounds ‘very good’.

  • Eli Valcik

    Been following these guys for a while but this is the first album to really grab me

  • Heldarc

    Ha I knew it! You were waiting with this review for what Metal Wani would say, admit it.
    Seriously though, great review, will check this out.

    • Reese Burns

      I think I speak for everyone when I say we were *all* waiting to see what Metal Wani would say.

  • Gaëtan Baratin

    The record sounds great! I’m surprised it’s only DR6.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    If you ever wondered “What if Immolation played Black Metal?” this is the band for you.

    • jersey devil

      exactly!

  • Jrod1983

    This is really quite good, never got around to listening to these guys but I’m enjoying this a lot.
    Going to have to check out their back catalogue now I think.

  • Reese Burns

    I fell in love with this thing the moment I heard it, we’ll see how repeat listens treat it, but as it stands, it may very well be an AotY candidate, impressive.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Thats a cool song with a great vocal performance but I can’t help but feel it’s let down a bit by its production. There’s no depth to the sound, the guitars are loud but weirdly lack punch or definition. Another problem for me is how the drums sound so seperate. At times it feels like there’s 3 different people doing percussion rather than a drummer also theres all these clonking and clicking noises through out which are too prominent. I’d say this definitely needed a more dynamic master.

  • herrschobel

    great sound and an appropriate Band picture….let em burn baby…let em burn

    • thiR

      Profane is nuts. It has been one of my favorite black/death record for quite a while now (only dethroned by “The Abrogation” and “Fatal Power of Death”… although these albums have a very different vibe).