Svart Crown – Wolves Among the Ashes (Century Media)Sunday, 2nd February 2020
If there was a defining label that could be given to Svart Crown’s last album, 2017’s Abreaction, it was that of experimentation. It was a more controlled beast than that of Profane, and it saw them attempting to push the boundaries further than on previous releases. For those who are more into the act’s more blackened/death metal origins, buckle up as Wolves Among the Ashes continues to see the band evolve and become something different entirely.
Looking back into Abreaction, it feels like it was laying groundwork for the changes to come here. Wolves displays a ton of variation as you move from track to track, as well as taking some shifts in tone that the band hasn’t openly explored as much in the past. In addition to some visceral black/death that springs up quite gloriously, such as “Thermageddon” executes at the beginning of the album. But as the album progresses, you begin to hear more diverging routes. Some tracks have an almost Gojira-meets-death metal feel, such as “Exoria” with its crushing grooves, progressive riffing, and use of clean(er) vocals. “Blessed Be the Fools” lurches in an almost doomy tone for most of its runtime, focusing on mammoth riffing and some near-ritualistic vibes. “Down to Nowhere” is starkly melodic, albeit in a dark and foreboding way, swerving into sludgy territory with no real violence in its tone (yes, lots of clean vocals here). “At the Altar of Beauty” delivers more blackened/death riffage, but also switches into moments of progressive, doomy, and melodic indulgence. The same could be said of the finale, “Living with the Enemy,” an 8-minute mock-up of much of the changes that the rest of the album reveals done in a way that seems to paint a picture of the band moving forward. Their use of melody within the dark riffing is what holds it together, and keeps a constant within the tracks.
While those looking for a more traditional black/death release aren’t going to find it here, Svart Crown have managed to rise above their influences and put out an album that revels in a more progressive glory. It continues to pave the way for the act to grow in the future, while still maintaining a dark aesthetic that keeps them squarely in the extreme quadrant.