Crowned: Vacuous Spectral Silence

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Crowned: Vacuous Spectral Silence
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Crowned: Vacuous Spectral Silence
Black Metal
Séance Records
November 1st, 2012
Release length: 56:43
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Crowned is an Australian Black Metal group that formed in 2010. After about one year, the mysterious three-piece unleashed a demo recording titled Ainulindale, which grabbed plenty of attention all around. This included those in charge at Séance Records, a newly formed Australian label that caters to this specific style of Metal. A six song experience, their debut full-length album, titled Vacuous Spectral Silence, clocks in at nearly an hour in length, all from three individuals who remain nameless, and faceless, sticking deeply to the shadows of the underground so that the music would speak for itself. However, does this end up nothing more than another Black Metal gimmick, or has two years been enough time to mold a solid effort to earn the respect of this tightly knit community?

In keeping with the tradition of the underground, Vacuous Spectral Silence sticks with a somewhat rawer mold in hopes to help push the atmospheric traits of the band’s sound along. Right away the drumming seems a little crisp compared to the rest, though not everything is that muddied to begin with. The cymbals come through pretty clear, though not really at the forefront of the mix like the empty, sometimes booming deeper snares, and loud thuds of the bass kick. This causes a bit of a clash that can immitate a washout compression at times, but thankfully isn’t the actual case. The guitars have a lower tone to them as well. Thanks to it, they can almost seem non-existant due to the volume level, allowing only the cleaner lead riffs that are a bit louder to really stand out. However, this works with the solid bass guitar, creating a truly bleak, even crushing environment that the echoed rhasps, like a sinister yet thick wind rolling by, really capitalize on. There’s also some clean singing here and there, and it’s often a soothing chanting style that works with the atmosphere that often envelopes the music. Finally there are some keyboards, and they vary in volume as well, most times being pushed deep into the background for a subtle impact.

Thanks to the lower tone, this album simply comes off heavy and bleak. Even the softer introduction track, “Menelvagor,” sounds great from it. The simpler bass tones against the liquid-like cleaner riffs comes off soothing and addictive before the harsher distortions and drumming kicks in over them. The song remains catchy, though shifts into a Depressive Black Metal tone, a touch that appears at varied times throughout the recording. There are some additional vocals, but birefly here and there when the music slows down, allowing the haunting leads and cymbals to shine through well. While nearly seven minutes long, this rather beautiful piece ends up one of the shortest tracks on the album, and does a fantastic job setting up the rest of the release, but doesn’t establish the harsher overall tone as strongly as it should.

Unfortunately, that darker environment doesn’t quite linger, as much of the following five songs take more of a sinister, aggressive path in comparison. “Menelvagor” bleeds into “Journey to the Crossroads” with a nice transition. The music picks up the pace, finding some blasting drum work laced with catchy second generation Black Metal riffs, though some bridges can end up a bit hollow as they build towards a more powerful verse, or the chorus itself. There’s also “Firmament,” which is a far heavier, but just as aggressive offering. There’s a stronger focus on the near blast-beat drumming, but there are plenty of haunting bridges that do slow the pace down, instead focusing on a consistant cymbal tap from the kit. These passages will allow you to bang your head along a lot more than the faster ones, but both are equally as memorable and enjoyable, even when the rhasps and clean singing come together to give the music more of a memorial vibe.

Of course, those are just some of the shorter tracks. “Apocryphal Catacomb” reaches just over ten minutes, and treads more into the Depressive Black Metal territory once more. The haunting chords in the background are a little louder than on “Menelvagor,” and there is some clean singing to be found as well. This actually heads into a guitar solo, where echoed riffs meet cleaner ones, dueling between one another with moving riffs that fill up the time well without actually becoming bland or losing your interest in the slightest way. “Vacuous Spectral Silence,” however, is more of a modern Black Metal offering with some really catchy, as well as intense material. Amid the consistant pace and hammering drums, there’s a slight keyboard presence in the background that adds just enough to keep the song engaging during many of the longer areas where the pace, or even performance, never really seems to shift. This doesn’t last the whole songBy the time you reach the end, you’re back to the catchy, haunting atmosphere that “Menelvagor” promised, and “Journey to the Crossroads” departed from. This weaves a moving closer that is a bit simpler than anything else on the album, and does lead to a slowing down that seems to just cut out of nowhere to a quicker section, building up the speed once more with some slight epic elements in the background once again from the keyboards.

Vacuous Spectral Silence is actually a surprising album overall. While things can become a little simpler, such as towards the end of the thirteen minute plus title track, much of the recording has a good deal of atmosphere, hooks, and intensity behind it to grab the listener. For a group that has only really existed for two years, this Australian Black Metal group definitely seems to have a firm grasp on what they intend to do and sound like with the entity they have created in place of themselves. Crowned is definitely a group to keep an eye out for as time goes on, and fans of well executed Black Metal should take notice of Vacuous Spectral Silence, as it’s an album that does end up worth a little less than an hour of your time to experience.

01. Menelvagor – 6:49
02. Journey to the Crossroads – 9:12
03. Firmament – 7:32
04. Apocryphal Catacomb – 10:04
05. Diamonds – 9:32
06. Vacuous Spectral Silence 13:34
Initial Pressing Score: 8/10

Crowned (band)
Crowned

Digital review copy of this release provided by Séance Records.