KingCrow - In CrescendoThe inherent problem with nailing down “In Crescendo” by Italian progressive hard rock/metal band Kingcrow is the sheer variety of styles and sounds within songs and between them. But let’s start with a couple of things not in doubt. For a start they sing clearer English than most bands from English speaking countries. Perhaps this is because they’re singing without a lazy accent, not deliberately trying to sound obscure, or a mixture of both. Add to this the fact they know how to make a wide range of sounds with their instruments and make them damn well. The problem is that despite initially thinking this is an awesome record, these two things started to create doubt in my mind. Are the songs too busy? Is there too much happening? Are the voices too clear and characterless? Would less clear vocals hide the often corny lyrics?

One of the interesting and confusing aspects is that the music is essentially progressive and experimental in the sense that it’s a mix of styles and plays with song structure, but often it sounds relatively mainstream or at least overly familiar with glimpses of ’00s alt-rock, Nu-metal, late ’90s metal/hip-hop, late ’80s psych revival like Slickee Boys, ’70s prog and more. This leaves them in that odd space of sounding like so many other bands yet paradoxically sounding like no other band. ‘This Ain’t Another Love Song’ is a great example, sounding at various times like Ernest Ellis & The Panamas, Foo Fighters and XTC.

Throughout the album there are passages of great heavy riffage, fierce drumming and awesome heavy grooves, but I would not characterise this as a metal album overall. Unlike a lot of post-metal which borrows from rock, this travels fully into rock territory and back. ‘The Hatch’ will have you swapping from banging your head and swirling your hair to some serious pogo work as it rocks out. Mix in some really cool organ and piano work, beautiful classical arpeggios and impressive symphonic moments and occasional guitar solos, and you have an album awash with variety that never gets stuck in one spot but never falls off the rails.

There are a couple of times when things get really cheesy, mainly in the early part of ‘The Glass Fortress’ and near the end of ‘Summer of ’97’, and this threatened to turn me off the album for a while there.

In the end though, my first response is the one that has returned, especially once I decided not to think of this as metal album. The songs are so well written, played and produced, an absolute feast of variety, and despite their occasional cheesiness “In Crescendo” is worthy of a spot in the record collection of any metal or rock fan who likes to think about their music.

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