For I Am King – Crown Review

I can address the Arch Enemy-shaped elephant in the room with For I Am King. A female vocalist, a Gothenburg-inspired guitar attack, just enough metalcore riffage to keep things relatable – Crown has got it all. To be clear, there is nothing cutting edge about it; if it’s riffs you want, ask and you shall receive. Don’t approach Crown expecting to come away with the prototype of the new breed of melodeath or a newfound respect for Arch Enemy. In fact, if you don’t like the Swedish icons or Angela Gossow or Alissa White-Gluz, don’t expect For I Am King to change your mind.

For I Am King embodies that marriage of melodic death and metalcore that so often lends itself to female vocalists, bands like The Agonist, Straight Line Stitch, Deadlock, and early In This Moment, inspired by the aforementioned Arch Enemy. Dutch collective For I Am King offer no surprises on their third full-length Crown, as such, except perhaps to inject a cutthroat bombast reminiscent of In Dread Response and more synth-heavy metalcore focus a la Betraying the Martyrs. Punchy riffs, fretboard gymnastics, berserk drumming, and touches of symphonic synths combine, overseen by vocalist Alma Alizadeh’s frantic barks, guaranteed to get the head bobbing with infectious rhythms and memorable melodies. While the Dutchmen do nothing to set themselves apart from a crowded history of mixed quality, solid songwriting shines in the balance of heavy and contemplative, putting Crown just on this side of good.

What is perhaps most striking about Crown is its solid songwriting that manages to fit all its elements neatly in tasteful areas. Its regal atmosphere never becomes excessive, its riffs never overstay their welcome, the melodies are tasteful, and Alizadeh’s vocals are utilized to near perfection. While her range remains comfortably somewhere between a mid-range bark and a high shriek, “Pariah” offers a blackened portion that descends into a punishing breakdown with start-stop guitar licks and wild solos along the way, while “Oblivion” features a rhythmic union of infectious plodding riffs and harsh growls, both tracks comprising the vocal and instrumental triumph of the album. Blinding tremolo and insane arpeggios through breakneck tempos dominate tracks like “Liars” and “Avarice,” frantic plows inspired by Children of Bodom. More contemplative tracks like “Barriers” and “Bloodline” dwell in symphonic synth washes, while riffs and rhythms pummel beneath, amplifying the royal theme pervading the album, while closer “Disciples” makes a bold statement in its 6/8 timing and crushing riffs. Breakdowns are used sparingly but make themselves known, as “Barriers” and “Sinners” offer the most straightforward metalcore influence of the band’s All Heads Rise days. Alizadeh’s vocals are a unique and commanding force in and of themselves, a huskiness and rabidity that tastefully contrasts with the royal precision.

While nearly every passage that For I Am King offers is executed with professionalism and precision in mind, some tracks fall by lack of memorability or jarring tonal shifts. “Trojans” offers the first contemplative passages of the album, for instance, only to be outdone by “Barriers,” while opener “Avarice” is quickly overtaken by “Liars.” Meanwhile, “Bloodline” attempts to fuse all the album’s assets into one song, beginning with symphonic sprawl only to T-bone it with sudden cutthroat melodeath riffs, and conclude the track with never-before-seen crystalline melodic elements. While extremely memorable in its conclusion, the track as a whole feels haphazard and convoluted. The conclusion of “Disciples” is hit-or-miss, as the band stamps its seal of approval with this self-reference: “Hail the king, hail the king, for I am king.” Albeit delivered with admirable confidence, its ham-fisted self-reference can be off-putting. Perhaps most damningly, For I Am King does very little, aside from the blackened portions in “Pariah” and the crystalline guitar leads of “Bloodline,” to separate itself from the Arch Enemy-inspired commercial melodeath pack. While Alizadeh’s vocals are extremely unique and an easy highlight, it’s a shame that the flashy technicality doesn’t do more to ascend its genre tropes – as guitarists Wouter Cammelbeeck and Koen Scheepens are clearly capable.

While For I Am King may not be a resounding success, Crown is still worth a spin. Razor-sharp instrumentals, a tasteful edge of melody, and a nice balance of contemplative and heavy, spearheaded by unique and commanding vocals, are only undercut by some songwriting snafus and tone issues, as well as melodrama becoming a little much-ish. Undeniably regal, the Dutchmen’s third full-length may not be the crowning achievement of the year, but it remains a fun ride of ridiculous proportions. That’s all you need sometimes.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Prime Collective
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: January 20th, 2023

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