Review: The Crown – Royal Destroyer
Gentlemen, start your engines.
I’m to understand The Crown had a comeback album some time ago, but I’m pretty sure they never really left. My milestones are the sturdy Crowned In Terror and Possessed 13, twitchy death-thrash blasters from the early Aughts that prove The Crown had their winning combo figured out early and just kept riding with it. Royal Destroyer really is the same but more so. But like, waaaay more so. On a record like this, there’s no destination. It’s every shot in every Fast & Furious movie where somebody dramatically presses the gas and revs the engine, stretched into a feature-length picture. With a battle cry The Crown declares “Let The Hammering Begin”, and after 40-odd minutes, when the Hammering finally ends, your first steps on stable land still feel like tremors, aftershocks to the landspeed record you left in the dust 200 miles ago.
I think the metaphor is apt, and not just because of the racetrack thematics of the leading single, “Motordeath”. All the moving pieces of this engine are cranked to just barely function together without the torque wrenching them apart. The mix is packed with 12-cylinder drums and guitars, plus the supercharged growl of Johan Linstrand, all scraping up against each other for space, like 4 bodybuilders trying to squeeze through a revolving door together. In some spots, like the pre-chorus to “Full Metal Justice”, I straight up can’t tell what’s happening anymore, not because it’s mixed badly, but it’s just all So Much At Once. It momentarily crosses the boundaries of death thrash into pure grindy threshing convulsion.
But sure, let’s talk about the songwriting and the riffs, like they’re really what matters here. We’re looking at a fully-loaded barrel of stomping thrash riffs, halftime breakdowns (check the “Angel of Death” homage in “Hammering”), and some white-hot, if indistinct, soloing to weld it all together. “Full Metal Justice” probably has the best of the bunch, being a chopped-down little number that is mostly a delivery rocket for the pentatonic pyrotechnics. The following tracks, “Scandinavian Satan” and “Devoid of Light” follow the same mold, while getting progressively more percussive in the riff department, the latter even verging on Gojira-esque with its chromatic, skewed tonality and oddly placed harmonic buzzes. Like an old-school drag racer, though, the real power on this record is in the front half.
The first four proper tracks (not counting the intro) have a bit more time to really stretch their muscles, and the arrangement is noticeably more multi-layered. “Motordeath” in particular has surging lead strains over hummingbird fast tremolo over skank-happy drums, really putting the needle in the red on all instruments right up until the anthemic finish. “Ultra Faust” is my favorite track overall, even if the lyrics are cool to the point of utter meaninglessness. If we wasted even a second wondering about them, it would ruin the rush. Who the hell is Ultra Faust? I guess he’s a fucking punk, and his love is fury. This is the price we pay for singalong death metal choruses (that sound a little too similar to the pre-chorus of “Motordeath”, but whatevs).
Okay, ‘the hammering’ isn’t truly nonstop, I did lead you wrong there. If it was, I might not be here writing this right now. I’d be incinerated and blasted out the exhaust. The odd moments when The Crown slow down are a split success. “Glorious Hades” really shows off some good atmosphere building as the song takes punctuated harmony breaks from the chug-and-slide main riff, and one excellent acoustic-accented reveal as the chorus makes its grand entrance. “We Drift On”, however, feels very off the mark, the only true DNF in this race. It feels like it’s trying to be one of the sorrowful Amon Amarth tracks, but it gives up all that momentum that had built before it. A poorly-timed pit stop before the last lap, as it were. I hate to shame the attempt at variety, but this is one of those times where the consistent saminess of the songs is actually well-executed enough to be a strength, maybe even the album’s main strength. The songs all do one basic mood, do it very well, and don’t clash with each other as one winds down and the next overtakes it.
For all their finely engineered asphalt-burning attack, The Crown don’t really go anywhere except for laps around the starting line, over and over again. The tires, brakes, and injectors get swapped out, but these are all just slightly different mods on the same car: some faster on the straightaways, some tighter on the curves, but all drawing even more power and momentum in one another’s wake. Every track would be diminished on its own, but taken in one marathon run, they all feel like earth shakers. The Crown don’t really innovate here, just go out for a new ride. Still circling the same circuit, lapping faster and faster, honing their craft and optimizing at this one purpose they’ve chosen for themselves, zenlike. Holy shit, do I understand NASCAR now?