While all the focus recently has been on the successful reunions of the comeback kings of death metal, namely Autopsy, Carcass and At the Gates, the fourth incarnation of Trollhättan quartet The Crown has largely gone unnoticed. The lukewarm reaction to 2010’s “Doomsday King” may explain why it has taken the band nearly five years to produce another record, and with original vocalist and fan favourite Johan Lindstrand returning for a third stint behind the mic the odds are looking good for the veterans’ seventh album “Death is not Dead” to catapult them back to the big leagues. What a shame then that it falls short in several respects.
Things don’t start off too badly with the classy instrumental ‘Reign’ building tension nicely before the late 90s Euro-death chugging of leading track ‘Headhunter’ invokes feelings of nostalgia and satisfaction in equal measure. The Crown has made no attempt to alter their sound for the modern age, and why the hell should they? ‘Iblis Bane’ follows in the same vein with some clinical work behind the kit by Marko Tervonen who deserves plaudits for handling drum duties as well as guitar. The blitzkrieg solo halfway through is a high point and the intensity levels remain constant throughout. Unfortunately a completely pointless cover of ‘Eternal’ by Paradise Lost, with none of the gloom of the original breaks up the momentum and things start to slide from thereon.
The mid-point of “Death is not Dead” dips in quality quite noticeably with an over-reliance on lazy songwriting that is really not acceptable from a band with this much experience. ‘Struck by Lightning’ repeats the same tired old motifs that were the mainstay of Lindstrand’s previous band; the terminally dull One Man Army and the Undead Quartet while ‘Speed Kills (Full Moon Ahead)’ rips off the aforementioned ‘Headhunter’ shamelessly. ‘Horrid Ways’ features another stonking solo but again suffers from the same boring staccato riffs that form the bedrock of the album. Thankfully things improve slightly towards the end with the lush Gothenburg-esque melodies of instrumental ‘Meduseld’ and the no-nonsense thrash of ‘Godeater’ but the damage has already been done.
If simplicity is what you’re after then The Crown don’t disappoint. Never the most technical or original of bands, their meat and potatoes death/thrash will scratch an itch for many and their legions of fans will no doubt rejoice at their return. However, “Death is not Dead” is a half-arsed record (even the title is lazy) and if you want to remain relevant in this day and age then simply falling back on old tricks and hoping nostalgia will do the rest just isn’t good enough.