Svart Crown Witnessing the Fall

Svart Crown Witnessing the Fall
Generally speaking, combining black and death in this day and age is tricky business. You either run the risk of coming across like sloppy death metal or black metal with no atmosphere, and that's if you've managed to sidestep simply being another Morbid Angel or Behemoth clone. Svart Crown, while sharing some common ground with the aforementioned acts, strike just an engaging enough balance to be well worth a look for aficionados of either style. Drummer Gael Barthelemy previously did time in both Diabolic and Glorior Belli, which gives an initial hint as to what to expect from Witnessing the Fall. There is some chunky Floridian death metal anchoring the experience, nicely embellished with some ambient dissonance and that unmistakable blackened twang that's become increasingly dominant in recent USBM. Ultimately, the band's French origins are betrayed by occasional forays into a more chaotic, unhinged approach loosely resembling Deathspell Omega's more subdued moments, especially on disorienting album closer "Of Sulphur and Fire." The vocals aren't particularly memorable, largely because they are consistently drowned out by a hot-as-hell, overdriven recording somewhat akin to a Minotaur in a stained glass workshop. It takes a couple of listens for the hooks to sink in, but once they do it's icing on the cake, as the band effectively balance the intensity, catchiness and overall blasphemous vibe necessary to pull off this sort of thing. There's nary a misstep, and while certain sections are a tad aimless and could use more structural succinctness, Svart Crown strike just the right balance between paying tribute to their influences and juxtaposing them creatively, resulting in a recording that's difficult to fault. (Listenable)