I’ve been a longtime supporter of Pennsylvania’s progressive death metal giants known as Black Crown Initiate ever since The Wreckage Of Stars came out in 2014 and I thought it was an absolute masterpiece in the modern day era of death metal. Then in 2016 we got the sophomore effort of Selves We Cannot Forgive which took everything from the debut full-length, combined it to a blender to make it their most technical, cohesive and matured releases to date which made their songwriting, progression and detail incredibly special in it’s own retrospect. Now in 2020, we have the latest offering from the band and is released from their new label, Century Media Records titled Violent Portraits Of Doomed Escape. To describe Black Crown Initiate’s sound is pretty self explanatory. Take the earliest stages of Opeth from their progressive death metal roots, mixed with traditional roots of Hate Eternal, clean singing from Scar Symmetry and a generous dosage of late 90’s era of Death with heavy influences from Gojira, The Faceless, Fallujah and Obscura but in a much more philosophical style of progressive death metal.
Musically, this album kicks off right after Selves We Cannot Forgive and while most bands within the progressive and technical death metal spectrum often times have bland skills and repetitive song structures, Black Crown Initiate however doesn’t really rely or concentrate that matter. This time around, their style for having creative chord progressions, rhythmic guitar melodies, black metal inspired atmospheres, contemporary leads of beautifully executed instrumentals and harsh, unclean vocal deliveries really is the beauty and the beast hybrid which makes the album soothing, aggressive, melancholic and even dreamlike in a sense where everything is used based on atmosphere and emotion. The structures, leads and symbolism behind the album’s lyrical content is really deciphering based on what you feel interpreting on the album’s context is surely mesmerizing so to speak. However, one thing I love to include upon listening to this magnificent album is the songwriting, everybody on the record really showcased how much their devotion putting into the music sets the bar sky high due to it’s diverseness and capturing imaginations where I feel some of the guitar work displayed here brings out a Meshuggah tone due to it’s 8 string virtuosity and more leaning towards the audible instrumentals.
While Black Crown Initiate haven’t fallen off the grid to write compromising music, they’ve outdone themselves both musically, lyrically, sonically and atmospherically. Just moments hearing the songs such as Death Comes In Reverse, Invitation, Sun Of War, and Trauma Bonds features clean vocals, acoustic guitar leads, extended instrumental sections to the more expressive parts of furious blast beats and punishing vocal deliveries surely balances the Doom Metal influences with haunting spoken words and contributing menacing tones the songs finest quality to date. But for what it’s worth, Violent Portraits Of Doomed Escape by Pennsylvania’s Black Crown Initiate delivered one of best progressive death metal releases of 2020 and the unbound passion, sophistical creativity and artistic talent they’ve created had never sounded calmer and heavier than past releases and arguably landing in my top favorites of the year.
Overall Score: 10/10
Review by Jake Butler