The Crown – “Cobra Speed Venom” (Metal Blade Records)
Oh wow, just check out the speed on this album! For those of you that don’t know, The Crown are one of the cult Swedish bands of the mid 90s, mixing (at times melodic) death metal with thrash a la Sepultura or Slayer and even punk along the lines of Anti Cimex – quite a combination! Still with founding members Marko Tervonen (rhythm guitarist), bassist Magnus Olsfelt and continuing his vocal run Johan Lindstrand, “Cobra Speed Venom” is the band’s 10th release and is one of the most fearsome releases I’ve heard in many a month, proving that even after 27 years, the The Crown haven’t lost their regal ability to shatter brains and bones!!! One of the reasons for this is new drummer Henrik Axelsson (Implode) who is an absolute beast whose double bass pedalling literally lifts the songs offa the record. Equally, new guitarist Robin Sörqvist (Impious) shows his mastery in bringing to bear an breathtaking range of styles from neo punk licks, Swe-deth riffing, Sepu fretboard burning and straight up heavy metal prowess – seriously, the man is all over the 13 blistering tracks here. As a result, “Cobra Speed Venom” is dripping in energy and aggression all the way from start to finish, completed by a cover that is highly reminiscent of Morbid Angel’s “Altars Of Madness” mixed with the evening hue of Metallica’s “Master Of Puppets” – yeah, I guess you know where these guys roots are! With apparently most of last year spent rehearsing this new material it’s hardly a surprise given the electric performances here, completed by Fredrik Nordström’s perfection production, bringing together crystal clarity with a massive, brutal sound. Right from the get go, the blazing opener ‘Destroyed By Madness’ with its hyper speed drums and blurring riffs races off like wild horses as Lindstrand roars to literally stay ahead of the herd, you already get an idea of what you’re in for while the twiddly dee melodies and some classy heavy metal soloing show both the versatility and pedigree of this acclaimed band. With crashing riffs and a hint of horror synth title track ‘Cobra Speed Venom’ pummels its way through your soul, aided by the dirty crunching bass of Olsfelt and crazy dual neo classical melodies from Tervonen and Sörqvist fencing each other like in some insane duel before ending in melodic death bliss – most impressive! Getting even more virtuosic in their melodies mixed with high speed chopping thrash beats comes the shorter ‘Rise In Blood’ which was a nice prelude to the somber heavy metal of ‘Where My Grave Shall Stand’ with its epic riffs and spectacular guitar clearly showing those Metallica influences sounded off by some wailing feedback. Best track for me was the longest song, ‘The Sign Of The Scythe’ opening Candlemass doomincus style before erupting into furious chopping melodic thrash riffola along the lines of At The Gates with its beautiful Scandi melodies, drum rolls and wild, but melodic speedway racing guitars owing a definite nod to the mighty Dissection – truly brilliant. Damn near the perfect album and without a shadow of doubt definitely a contender for one of the most intense releases this year!