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jools green
Jools Green

black crown initiate

I've recently been evaluating my idea of just what Extreme Metal is to me. Fitting into this ever evolving concept perfectly are Pennsylvania's Black Crown Initiate whose take on "extreme" is so disparate in theory, yet so perfect in practice, seamlessly melding great chunks of crushing technical edged Metal with elements of Alt-Rock which at times doesn't just span the genres it also spans the decades and how they make these seemingly unlikely elements gel with flow and continuity is nothing short of impressive.

Is it any wonder that their ever growing success continues, from that original underground buzz of interest for their debut EP in 2013, the positive reception of 2015s full length, the ground breaking 'The Wreckage Of Stars' and now this latest masterpiece, 'Selves We Cannot Forgive'.

This latest offering takes inspiration from lyricist Andy Thomas and his lifelong interest in philosophy, in this case the works of Nietzsche, along with cultural history, namely the colonial occupation of the United States, adding an interesting slant to their Metal.

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Across this eight track, fifty one minute offering there's nothing to dislike; James Dorton's harsh vocal delivery is superbly brutal, well defined and intonated while guitarist and clean vocalist Andy Thomas' efforts are, despite his claims to "not be a natural singer", more than adequate for the job, at times even reminding me of Yes' 'Going For The One' era Jon Anderson, particularly on the opening track, the predominantly crushing and brutal 'For Red Clouds', which had the hair on the back of my neck standing on edge throughout.

All aspects of instrumentation and composition are superb, from the vast sublime melodic swathes to the precise technical lead work, superbly supported by Jesse Beahler's complex and pummelling drum work and slick bass lines from Nick Shaw.

'Sorrowpsalm' builds from its melodic opener, developing a brutal crunchy feel, culminating in soaring cleans that intermingle with the harsh vocals, the result being superb listen. 'Again' boasts sublime drum patterns and spiralling riffs running beneath cleans and I love the retro proggy keyboard and guitar work midway through the first half. It's a track that also takes a delightfully brutal turn midway with some excellent vocal roars and there's also a great hypnotic undertone.

'Belie The Machine' could well be my favourite track, but the more I listen to this album the harder that choice gets. I love the crushingly heavy riffing and the increasingly distorted harsh vocals had the hair on my neck standing on end again. The cleans are a sublime contrast and once more there's some superb lead work.

The midpoint arrival of the harsh vocals on 'Selves We Cannot Forgive' has maximum impact as a result of its timing as up to this point you are lulled by the reflective melody and soaring cleans which are guaranteed to knock you out of your chair.

'Transmit To Disconnect' knocks you sideways with a powerful opening roar; the vitriolic harsh vocal delivery follows along with midpoint lead work. 'Matriarch' is hugely technical, crushingly brutal in the vocal department but skilfully softened with the cleans.

Despite the title, final track 'Vicious Lives' is the most stripped back offering of the album gaining intensity in the final minute, with only cleans across it's duration. It's a highly reflective track that urges you to re-listen to the whole album once more.

'Selves We Cannot Forgive' is a superb album that should be of interest to fans of Opeth, Ne Obliviscaris and Fallujah.

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