The Crown – Royal Destroyer Review

It brings me no joy to write that, to my ears, Royal Destroyer does not meet the high bar set by Cobra Speed Venom, one of The Crown’s finest efforts and 2018’s best record. With that bit of unpleasantry dealt with, I can thankfully write that Royal Destroyer is still a good record, and nowhere near the misstep Death is Not Dead was. Royal Destroyer gets the big things right, but the devil (in our case, a “Scandinavian Satan”) lies in the details, and it is in details and subtlety that Cobra Speed Venom proves superior. Using Cobra Speed Venom and subtlety in the same sentence was not what I expected to do today.

The Crown has retained their base sound from Cobra Speed Venom but have added some bells and whistles into the mix. There’s more Amon Amarth style melo-death influences here, longer songs are more present, and the death-thrashing gives way a bit to speed metal in some spots. Occasionally something is uncomfortably familiar, such as a repeated little break in “Let the Hammering Begin!” which practically forces the listener to recall Cobra Speed Venom’s superior “Iron Crown” and sing the chorus he hasn’t forgotten instead. “Motordeath” starts out on a riff that legitimately sounds like my brother’s favorite band Strung Out before moving into some fun speed metal which culminates with standout guitar work. Sure, the chorus lyrics begin by aping Metallica’s “Motorbreath” but it’s fun and explains the speed metal influence nicely.

What made Cobra Speed Venom tick was exceptional songwriting and structuring, allowing each riff to be impactful and memorable in the context of its song, and each song to be impactful and memorable in the context of the record. Royal Destroyer is somewhat confusingly structured, putting all of the aggressive and concise death-thrash assaults on Side B. The record begins on “Baptized in Violence,” which is basically The Crown trying to write a Disfear song. It’s not bad, but it comes across a bit half-baked. “Glorious Hades” wastes thirty seconds on an atmospheric intro that makes its point in ten and launches into The Crown doing their best Versus the World impression. It climaxes with an impressive lead about three-fifths into the song and meanders its way to the end thereafter. “We Drift On” also reminds me of Versus the World with its melodic plodding pace, and while it’s not necessarily bad, it lacks the energy and vitality of Cobra Speed Venom’s mid-paced moments or the gravitas of that record’s penultimate instrumental track “Where My Grave Shall Stand.”

Despite my qualms, there’s still some quality material on offer here. “Absolute Monarchy,” “Scandinavian Satan,” and “Full Metal Justice” are classic The Crown burners, all being propulsive and catchy. “Beyond the Frail” sees The Crown hammering home a huge melo-death monstrosity, which is smartly written, perfectly paced, and sees each member of the band turning in a great performance. Johan Lindstrand’s vocals remain charismatic as ever, and he’s got a knack for smart phrasing. “Ultra Faust” has some riffs that remind me of old (i.e. first) Aro-era The Haunted in a great way among a bunch of quality The Crown riffs.

Once again, The Crown’s production suits the music well. It’s aggressive and tight, like the band at their best. Everything is audible, and the bass plays a prominent role in some places, especially in “Beyond the Frail” during the chorus. I’m certain that Royal Destroyer will be well-received by fans, as it does enough right to not cause any real concern. Kudos to The Crown for taking a few more chances than they did on Cobra Speed Venom, which reiterated exactly why the band is one of death-thrash’s most entertaining acts. Not everything here works, but Royal Destroyer never dips below good. Unfortunately, it rarely reaches the heights of Cobra Speed Venom, Crowned in Terror, or Deathrace King either. When asked to summarize a plot, argument, or idea, we all put forward what we believe to be its most pertinent details. For me, Cobra Speed Venom was the summary of everything great about The Crown, because different strengths and ideas were emphasized. Royal Destroyer is different and accords less with my tastes. While my recommendation isn’t unreserved as it was for Cobra Speed Venom, Royal Destroyer is undoubtedly a worthwhile listen.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Metal Blade Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: March 12, 2021

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