As far as progressive death metal goes, is there a more exciting, more alluring band currently in operation than Black Crown Initiate? We’d argue, no. And Violent Portraits Of Doomed Escape is all the proof we need!
When Black Crown Initiate are ‘heavy’ they are astoundingly so, with tumultuous rhythms and hair-raising growls providing the perfect counterpoint to their many moments of introspection. This is, of course, a tried and tested formula but one that Black Crown Initiate have harnessed to its fullest effect here. The signs that an album of this quality have been evident since BCI’s full length debut, The Wreckage Of Stars, arrived fully formed back in 2014 but they’ve hit new highs here; confounding expectation and, arguably, releasing their finest collection of songs to date.
With the delicate intro of opener “Invitation” welcoming you into their world, it’s not long until unbridled ferocity, death growls and all manner of prog-chops affront the senses. Black Crown Initiate can do intricate – airy even – but they can also drop megaton riffs with carefully conceived aggression often erupting into a maelstrom of blast-beasts, soaring solos and djent-inspired heaviness on a whim. The slow-build of “Death Comes In Reverse” may play out pretty much as expected but it’s no less convincing because of it, with shamen-esque chants, blackened vocals and moments of sublime heaviness and jazzy noodling nestling side by side in perfect harmony.
Highlights then come thick and fast but, for now, we’ll settle on singling-out the brutal beauty of the harmonious “Holy Silence” for particular merit. Overwhelmingly powerful and overflowing with ideas, the soaring melodies, acoustic guitar work and multi-faceted nature of “Holy Silence” cuts a swathe through the heart of Black Crown Initiate’s core, ultimately exposing both their heaviest and most progressive sides in one perfectly formed package.
Violent Portraits of Doomed Escape is engaging, it’s playful, adventurous and endlessly inventive and fans of Opeth (Blackwater Park to Watershed era), Rivers of Nihil, The Ocean Collective (aka The Ocean), In Mourning and Ne Obliviscaris will undoubtedly revel in the complicated interplay of this fantastic and highly rewarding album. While not quite perfect – some judicious editing here and there wouldn’t go amiss in order to slightly streamline the overall experience – there’s still more than enough progression and challenging material to compensate for 2016’s semi-disappointing Selves We Cannot Forgive (2016).
In fact, we’d be surprised if Violent Portraits Of Doomed Escape doesn’t make a few end-of-year lists, such is the ample quality on display throughout. 8/10
Violent Portraits Of Doomed Escape was released on August 7th, 2020 via Century Media Records.