Hello ladies and ‘gents. I am going to use this opportunity to not only review my second CD on this blog — debut CD “The Fallout” by Crown the Empire — but also to rant really quick. So please ‘cuse the vent, but it has to happen.
Lemme start off with a backstory. A few months ago, I was lucky enough to go see one of my favorite bands, I See Stars. Little did I know that I would also be introduced to one of my favorite bands currently: Crown the Empire. They were opening for I See Stars and The Word Alive. I was hanging out in the back on the venue since I didn’t know of Crown the Empire yet and honestly didn’t want to get drenched in sweat before I saw the boys I came to see. Crown the Empire were pretty good, but then their song “Johnny Ringo” came on. I was talking to my sister and at the opening chords, complete with an eerie carnival number, my head immediately snapped over to the stage, intrigued. They caught my attention and have held it since.
They put forth one of the most energetic performances I have ever seen on stage, never once ceasing to stay pumped and keep the crowd off their feet. That definitely impressed the hell out of me. I was lucky enough to meet the band afterwards and found them all to be really outstanding, funny guys. So not only did they gain my interest, but also my respect.
Needless to say, once they announced their debut album (only had a stellar EP out prior), I was stoked. I was forced to wait with the rest of their fanbase and waited I did. Then, ’bout a week before the CD was set to release on November 20th, one of my favorite magazines, Alternative Press, released a review on the album. Always excited to get an early opinion, I hopped on over to read it, and was highly disappointed.
The review, written by Jason Schreurs, was anything but a review. In two short paragraphs, he bashed the notion that due to this debut’s added use of synch and “dubstep-like elements”, it stranded too far from the metalcore label the band has acquired, making the album “sound misplaced and well, silly.”
Lemme be the first to tell you that statement is a load of bull. And if you don’t believe me, head over to altpress.com and check out the 40+ plus comments that agree with me.
Schreurs is entitled to his opinion, like anyone else, but he was supposed to write a review of the album, not a 300-word complaint of how new elements make it different from other music in the genre. He did nothing to review the album, but just — and please excuse my French — bitched about how it was so different from what it was “supposed” to be. My two cents on that idea:
I have listened to screamo music and all the subgenres that follow it, since I was in middle school. I grew up on classic rock and metal thanks to my Dad, so I have always been into or exposed to the rock-ier elements found in music. But one of the things I found I have loved about the screamo genre (and I’m using screamo really loosely and generally here) is how adaptable its boundaries are. You have some basic elements that compose the genre, but artists are always encouraged to take those elements to the farthest they can go; challenged to see what new elements they can bring in and make work; praised when they can blend creative and stereotypical elements together to make a completely new sounds that manages to find a place within the screamo genre.
That being said, Schreurs is basically saying that because Crown the Empire uses dubstep elements into their music, they are breaking the bonds of the metalcore genre (what is metalcore truly, anyway?), thus deeming their album as unreviewable. Which is bull. I applaud the seven members of Crown the Empire for taking risks with this album and finding what works for them, because sorry to break it to you, Schreurs, but it does work. It works really damn well.
Now, lemme tell you why.
They start out the album with the sound of a film projector going, a soft, simple piano melody playing along with Andy’s smooth vocals. It creates an eerie mood that builds as layer upon layer is added, with drums and violins and guitars, until it reaches the climax; here enters David and his chill-giving, deep-throated screams, the sound of glass shattering and thunder in the background as compliments. All of this goes down in exactly two minutes, creating an eerie, story-like narrative once you listen to the lyrics that excites and intrigues the listeners.
And that’s only the intro song.
Cue in ten more songs to follow, all of them heavy, powerful and unique to Crown the Empire. I truly believe they have found their style through this album, honing their skills and raising at least ten levels from their previous EP. The riffs are stronger, the drums more powerful and controlling to the tempo of the music; the keyboard is hot, there is no other way to say it, because it adds a whole other dimension to the songs. And don’t even get me started on the vocals! Andy’s clean vocals are so smooth and carry so well, flowing through the songs like a dream. Then David’s unclean screams and growls interrupt Andy, adding his own mixture to the song that is brilliantly done, always coming in at the right moment of the song. Both of Crown the Empire’s singers can carry their own and putting them together…well, you might want to sit down for that one, because it is quite something.
Add the new, riskier elements I completely adore, and you have a legit debut album that WILL get stuck on repeat. Personally, I love the dubstep like elements (are you sure we were listening to the same tracks, Schreurs, because I’m stuck on repeat for all eleven of these songs). They appear often enough in the album to add a common thread to follow throughout the album yet do not overload or take away from the band’s natural sound. The beginning of “Menace” is a great twist to throw into the middle of the album, using violins and bass to introduce the song before David rips the sweet melody apart. I also like how David has a more prominent role than Andy in this song; good way to mix it up and create a different sound from the song before and after, both just as great. The two singles, “Makeshift Chemistry” and “Memories of a Broken Heart” I had memorized within the hour they were released, they were so fantastic. (Sidenote, the scream of “Yeah” at 3:36 of “Makeshift Chemistry” has given me chills EVERY time.) And I LOVE how they honor the roots of their EP with the final song on the album, “Johnny’s Revenge”, serving as a single to one of my favorites, “Johnny Ringo.” Schreurs claims that the album “is pretty.” Just listen to the beginning of “Johnny’s Revenge” and tell me if that laughter doesn’t give you nightmares for weeks; that is anything but pretty.
And lyrically, this album is golden. It manages to tell a story and various messages that its listeners can relate to and learn from, which is much more important than whether the band stayed within the elements of their genre. That’s the purpose of music: creating something that the listeners can empathize with. Some of the best musicians and bands have done this, and Crown the Empire are on the rise to do the same thing.
So all in all, this album would easily receive a 4.5 out of 5 stars from me, just short of 5 because nothing can be perfect. It is unique, powerful and keeps me interested the whole time. Personally, I would recommend it to anyone who is fond of the genre or maybe even people who aren’t, because if any band will get them into it, it would be Crown the Empire. I am beyond excited to go see these guys in January again and this time, I will be in the front row amidst the mosh pits, not sitting the in back waiting for the next act. Keep on being risky and ignoring the elements of the scene, boys. It creates amazing songs from you guys.
“I’ve given more than what I’ve got, I’ve given all of what I’m not, I’ve watched this war consume all that we could become. If I die before it’s done, please take these words, my final thoughts, the only way to shine your light is in the dark. Never let life kill your spark!” — The One You Feed, track five off of “The Fallout”