Swedish death metal veterans, The Crown return with their tenth full-length studio album, ‘Cobra Speed Venom,’ scheduled for release March 16, 2018 via Metal Blade Records. Since originally forming in 1990 under the name Crown of Thornes, the band has gone through various metamorphoses but once again manage to bring their unique rock n’ roll attitude and sensibility to their sound which is, without a doubt, unabashedly and unapologetically “metal.” By incorporating the aggressive and speedier elements of thrash, the brutality of old school American and Swedish death metal, and the groove and inhibition of arena rock; The Crown takes a refreshing approach to their own distinctive brand of death metal. There is virtually zero pretense to be heard and it’s clear while listening to this album that the group is actually having fun playing music the way they want to. As highly skilled and experienced musicians with an impressive discography to prove it, they deliver an amazingly powerful thirteen-track, hour-long annihilator of a record that will immediately satisfy and impress metal fans ranging anywhere from the casual to the über elite.
Personnel on ‘Cobra Speed Venom’ includes Johan Lindstrand (vocals), Magnus Olsfelt (bass), Marko Tervonen (guitar), Robin Sörqvist (lead guitar/backing vocals), and Henrik Axelsson (drums). The album was recorded at Studio Fredman together with Fredrik Nordström.
The one constant with this album is intensity. From track one until the very last notes of the final song, every second bleeds intenseness. Whether it’s moments of speed or groove, heavy or melodic, the band is always performing at maximum threshold. The payoff for this type of commitment results in an air-tightly cohesive yet expansive death metal record with fully conceived ideas that are executed at an exceptional level of musicianship.
Starting off with track one, “Destroyed by Madness,” the opening notes immediately draw the listener in with an epic intro of cinematic proportions before transitioning into a death/thrash, eighties Sepultura-style verse section. The drum work is superb and relentlessly pummeling throughout the song; and refreshingly, Axelsson is not afraid to pound on the high toms when necessary, which is a true rarity in such extreme music. Vocally, Lindstrand’s style is a venomous mid-range growl with a tone and delivery that often sounds like a hybrid of Morbid Angel’s David Vincent and Chuck Schuldiner of Death.
“Iron Crown” goes for a more rock n’ roll feel, but keeps the breakneck drumming speeds while adding in some extra groove and Zakk Wylde-esque pinch harmonic guitarwork. Respect to Lindstrand, who even throws in an “eeyah!” or two in the name of old school death metal. “In the Name of Death” continues down the death n’ roll path with thrashy yet melodic, up-tempo, Motörhead-influenced riffing. “We Avenge!” is one of my favorite tracks of the album and marks a noticeable departure in style from the previous three tracks. This time around the band goes for somewhat of a Devildriver sound both instrumentally and vocally. It’s definitely one of the more moshable moments and has a kickass anthemic chorus that will have you screaming “revolution just might come!” right along with them. The guitar tone on this song, and the entire album in general, is just pure metal bliss. They’ve somehow managed to pile on every last ounce of distortion as technically possible, and then add some more, for a truly menacing sound that’s electrifying and razor sharp while still managing to retain clarity and attack.
Other standout songs are the title track, “Cobra Speed Venom,” a dark, comprehensive opus that covers the spectrum of what this band offers. “While My Grave Shall Stand” is an instrumental power ballad of sorts. Yes, you read that correctly – a death metal power ballad; complete with powerfully emotive palm-muted, mid-tempo, melodic lead work and arguably the best soloing of the album. Bonus track, “The Great Dying” is a brutally sludgy, downtuned, hardcore-influenced punisher with tons of groove and smooth bass work.
Overall, this record is nothing short of amazing. Although generally categorized as death metal, what The Crown provides here is so far beyond that. To simply classify this album as “death metal” in no way adequately describes the musical depth displayed throughout ‘Cobra Speed Venom.’ What they are in essence providing is just pure metal for the sake of being metal, and clearly they are not concerned with any boundaries presumed by their genre. This album is a must listen, and even though it’s only February, I predict that it shows strong “best of 2018” list potential.