Scintillating and breath-taking, Song Of The Crippled Bull from US progressive death metallers Black Crown Initiate is a staggering debut which adds another pinnacle to the year and the genre. To be fair, the Reading, PA band cannot be simply tagged as above as their imagination, craft, and invention explores and employs an extensive expanse of styles and ingenuity for a fluid and magnetic ever evolving tempestuous adventure. Whether seducing or gnawing the senses to within an inch of their sanity, the band and release is a torrential storm of extremes and skilled enterprise merged into one giant and seamless ravishment.
Formed by Andy Thomas (guitars/clean vocals) and Nick Shaw (bass) with James Dorton (vocals) last year, Black Crown Initiate has taken little time in igniting the imagination and passions with their mouthwatering technical skill and ingenuity applied to exhaustive extreme and progressive metal brilliance. Recorded with Carson Slovak at Atrium Audio in Pennsylvania, the four track Song Of The Crippled Bull EP thrusts the threesome straight to the frontline of extreme metal brilliance and boundary pushing, ferocious invention. Now since the recording of the EP a quintet with the addition of Jeff Willet (drums) and Rik Stelzpflug (guitar), Black Crown Initiate stand poised to bring a new inciting melodic fire and corruptive provocative fury to the world.
Playing as one complete journey made up of four compelling movements Song of the Crippled Bull opens with Stench of the Iron Age, a piece which tells you all you need to know about the inventive intent and superbly crafted technical exploits bred within the band. A tender guitar caress makes the first temptation, its touch emotive and gentle. It is soon joined by a riveting bass presence, its snarl vibrant and eager, and equally energetic and festive rhythms. Once the outstanding mellow vocals of Thomas unveil the narrative over the mix the band already has attention and imagination dancing to its tune, the song at its start a tempting Opeth/Absolace like suasion. There is a jazz almost avant-garde air to the offering which without ever coming near to slipping into indulgence magnetises thoughts and emotions but it is once the track explodes into a carnivorous foraging of the ears and beyond that the fire is truly burning brilliantly and severely. The causticity of the harsh carnal tones of Dorton are as potent and addictive as the clean persuasion of Thomas and musically the storm of rhythmic intensity and sonic savagery is a destructive annihilatory rabidity which leaves the listener wasted and blissful. It is only the start of the persistently shifting and evolving triumph though, a melodic weave with a Muse like seed wrapping its tendrils around the brawl and a doom bred weight smothering any emerging light for a Meshuggah like predation to overwhelm everything in its creative path. To its end the track continues to writhe and flame with a delicious blend of electrifying toxicity and intoxicating imagination, merging into Ghosts She Sends to ensure no gulp of air is allowed to be taken and the listener given respite.
The second track expels a carnal swagger from the corrosive breath it starts with, a rapacious tempting soon immersed within the oppressive storm cloud but still laying down deep irresistible hooks impossible. The fury breaks as a golden melodic evocative glaze strokes new flumes of emotions and thoughts into action, guitars and bass providing an inventively woven walk through understanding, respectful sceneries. Shadows still lurk and Dorton is never far away from unleashing his powerful squalls which are met and empowered further by the scorching cleaner cries of Thomas. Again skill and adventure is a boiling persuasion across the track and hunger for its excellence as greedy as the intent of the sounds it craves.
The brutal finale of the song makes the initial challenge of The Mountain Top, though the drums and bass twist out an individual irresistible and lethal tapestry of addiction alongside the despoiling riffs and grievous vocals of Dorton. It is a savage enslavement but one which imperiously brings a stunning melodically cast infection drenched chorus into the mix with such skill and insight that it feels as organic within the violent bedlam as the on-going side by side swipes of destruction. The shortest track on the release it, as all slips magnificently into the next, the exhilarating closing title track. Bringing the EP in many ways full circle, the final piece is a fiery stroll with the bass again sheer contagion and clean vocals similarly enthralling. With melodies and premises closely aligned to the starter if not repeated, it makes for a circular passage of reflection and danger which is as malevolent and engaging as at any point on the release and as magnificent.
The PRC Music released Song of the Crippled Bull is quite monumental, the rising of a new ingenious progressive leviathan for extreme metal in the startling shape of Black Crown Initiate. Dare you miss one of the best things to imaginatively assault the ear this year?
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