Black Crown Initiate – Selves We Cannot Forgive (eOne)

Friday, 15th July 2016
Rating: 9.5/10

Quickly rushing to the top with their celebrated Song of the Crippled Bull EP and debut full-length, The Wreckage of Stars, Black Crown Initiate sought a balance between crushing death metal and emotive atmosphere. They also sought to not repeat themselves as they moved forward. A claim made by many bands, but one that Black Crown Initiate hold tight to with their second full-length, Selves We Cannot Forgive.

While those expecting Wreckage Part II will be sorely disappointed, Selves allows BCI to really spread their wings into new directions. A few things make it standout from its predecessor, but the most noticeable is just how bleak the album can be. A much darker and somber affair, there’s also more progressive flair (and less of that gut-punching death metal – though don’t fret, it certainly a heavy album). Definite nods towards Opeth and Tool come into play, with the band also trying its hand at some longer material, such as the 9-minute “Belie the Machine.” “Belie” is an adventurous track, with a bass-intensive intro before moving between BCI’s monstrous wall of death metal sound (with James Dorton sounding as demonic as ever) and a soaring chorus courtesy of guitarist Andy Thomas. There’s a lot here in just one track, and it’s clear that the band has spent time to hone in and focus on what goes into their material and give it the proper breathing room.

Elsewhere, you can find more nods that BCI is continuing to evolve. The most immediately infectious of the bunch, “Again,” sees the band diving deep into progressive rhythms and melodies and features a standout solo from new guitarist Wes Hauch. “Matriarch” pushes things on the atmospheric end, having a rather personal tone that is augmented by its slow-burning and melodic shifts, growing into more explosive territory. Even what is arguably the most frenetic song on the album, “Transmit to Disconnect” takes a break from the intense riffing patterns to dwell in some quiet, self-reflective moments. It should also be noted that the bass is much more audible than on Wreckage, really playing a shining role – particularly with the more progressive moments.

Selves We Cannot Forgive isn’t going to be an album that you sit down and fall in love with at first listen. It lacks many of the immediate hooks that brought many to the BCI party (think “Withering Waves”). But what Black Crown Initiate do with Selves is something even better. They really make you sit down and absorb what you are listening to. You can use the clichéd “thinking man’s death metal” if you’d like, but it’s the type of album that entices you to come back, again and again, as more of their vision falls into place. This, more than anything else, is why Black Crown Initiate continue to be on the short list of bands that make heavy metal truly exciting to listen to.

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