The Crown – “Royal Destroyer” (Metal Blade Records)
Battle Helm Rating
Holy crap – if you like your death metal like it was back in 90s, then “Royal Destroyer” has it all for you – in bunches. Frankly, it’s been quite a while since I heard an album with so much energy and OTT performances that I would’ve expected it to come from a young buncha fire pissers, not this veteran outfit, although they certainly make an old man proud! Formed in 1990, this Swedish band were known as Crown Of Thorns back then, and went on to release 7 studio albums before calling it quits in 2004, only to reform 5 years later which brings us to “Royal Destroyer”, the band’s 11th release. Aptly titled, it really reflects this band as being the king of monsters, a sorta Scandinavian Godzilla among the other death metal monstrosities not only reigning supreme in sheer visceral power, but equally resplendent with all the finer trappings of massive hooks, alluring grooves and exquisite melodies only attained through years of seasoned fighting experience. As such, the 10 tracks here are instant winners, not because they’re death metal classics, but that they also tastefully feature elements of thrash and black metal in just the right doses and more importantly, in just the right places. From ‘Let The Hammering Begin!’, a fitting tribute to Slayer’s late guitarist Jeff Hanneman, the ultra-thick twin guitars of Marko Tervonen and Robin Sörqvist collide with Magnus Olsfelt’s booming bass and Henrik Axelsson’s simply out of control drum work – not forgetting the bear roars of Johan Lindstrand – backed by a hellish crossfire of nihilistic riffs, diddly dee melodies, tremolo squeals and screaming on fire solos to make the pandemic seem like a picnic. Slowing it down initially on ‘Ultra Faust’, Lindstrand drawls ‘..no prisoners…no mercy..’ as the guitars slither eerily before the menacing speed and power build into twisting power riffs to culminate in the barking punkish chorus before the announcement of ‘..666..’ sees Axelsson slip into double bass overdrive while epic Scandi melodies and just about every fretboard firework is chucked in to keep things busy throughout in this unfettered performance. After an atmospheric intro, ‘Glorious Hades’ delivers a crushing sound of thick sludge riffs a la Crowbar with Olsfelt’s basslines adding to the song’s drama along with some charismatic vocal work from Lindstrand, while the majestic Scandi melodies – straight from the Gothenburg era – top things off beautifully with a glorious touch that’s hard not to be moved by. Indeed, it would be hard to hold back in saying that this album is nothing short of perfect.