Superstrong records? It’s hard to imagine a better home for Crown, a two piece sludge act from France whose music combines the brutal repetition of vintage Swans with the monolithic slabs of noise crafted by neurosis to form music which is both eerie and oppressive. Like looking up at the stars from behind the bars of a stygian prison cell, the walls leaking corrosive fluids as you peer up at the one point of light you’re allowed to see, Crown’s music is both stunningly heavy and strangely beautiful at the same time and their debut EP (released digitally back in February and on CD in March) is a fine debut by any standards.
Opening with the aptly titled stargazing of ‘cosmogasm’, the track is a clever combination of corrosive riffs that collide and fragment in a blaze of hazy light, and shimmering leads that permeate the blackness, slithering in and out of reach as the song progresses. It’s an amazingly atmospheric piece of music – one part sludge metal, one part ‘Silent hill’ and just as that game so perfectly captured the loneliness and isolation of a twisted, perma-frost covered landscape, so do Crown. The title track has a softer touch, the programmed drums maintaining a hypnotic beat under the band’s post-rock riffs in a move that recalls hints of both Isis and Red Sparrowes. It’s a sultry, almost stifling mood piece that is no less effective than it’s heavier counterpart and where Crown really succeed is their ability to weave a sense of atmosphere deeper and darker than any horror movie has ever accomplished – the tortured vocals of the latter stages only one further step towards the outright existential horror of finding oneself alone, at night in a medieval dungeon. ‘100 ashes’ is a stunning, slow burning number that takes a slow, grinding tempo and offsets it with some truly beautiful melodic lines that swell and grow as the track progresses before finally it segues into ‘Mare’, the dam finally breaking as a huge riff is unleashed that threatens to consume everything in its path leaving only the stillness of the water and floating debris in its wake. It’s a monumental slab of paranoia condensed into musical form, the riffs increasingly agitated and devastating, whilst the vocals battle against the tide adding a human element into an otherwise otherworldly mix making the closing notes, gently rippling upon the surface, all the more poignant and awash with loss.
The final track, ‘orthodox’, is no less impressive. Equally epic in scope, it opens with a tide of percussion reminiscent of the neurosis masterpiece ‘through silver in blood’. The percussive assault builds a sense of tension as you wait for the explosive assault of the guitars to break the hypnotic pulse. The track nods to the recent Amebix album’s pulsing, hypnotic opening pair of ‘these days’ and ‘shield wall’ and like those two tracks it is the combination of tribal drumming, light and shade guitar riffs and mesmerising that makes it such a compulsive listening experience.
Listening to ‘The one’ it’s hard to believe that ‘the one’ is the work of just two musicians so utterly all-consuming is the noise they make. Like the very best of sludge/post rock acts, Crown have the ability to transcend simple song-writing, their music more akin to a classical composition in the way it ebbs and flows across a kaleidoscopic range of moods and feelings. It is music to fuel the imagination and flood the senses and it is best played loud and without distraction. Fans of acts such as neurosis, tides of nebula and Mastadon will all find much to admire amongst these five stunning songs and you can order the EP at the following location (or listen to the brilliant opening track using the player below). Intense, emotional and quite exhaustively brilliant, ‘The one’ is a mesmerising, remarkable achievement.