Black Crown Initiate

The inescapable knowledge of inevitable impending physical death is but one burden of human consciousness. Consider the notion that awareness itself is a curse, a tool for knowing that nothing is truly knowable? What if the awareness of existence leads to the discovery that there is no existence, or if there is, it is impossible to ever describe?
 
A contemplative study of the mind, the spirit, and the nature of reality itself may seem incongruent with the trappings of heavy metal to the uninitiated casual observer. But those who descend into the darkest subterranean abyss of the art form’s most aggressive nihilism, only to soar under protection of a meditative cloak of aural pleasure, are those who may share in the near-supernatural wonder and inward carnal primitivism alike found within the progressive death metal of BLACK CROWN INITIATE.
 
Selves We Can Not Forgive, the band’s sophomore album, is a lean and focused collection that jettisons the extraneous fat found too often within ambitious metal bands, striking a balance between fearless adventurousness and methodical might. It follows their sprawling full-length debut, The Wreckage of Stars, which together with their self-financed Song of the Crippled Bull EP introduced Black Crown Initiate’s unapologetic exploration of everything from Friedrich Nietzsche and Greek Sophist Gorgias to Hinduism, Buddhism, and indigenous mysticism, with a pragmatic skepticism.
 
Black Crown Initiate’s music is a heady collection of thinking-man’s heavy atmosphere, a musical kindred spirit to the masterpieces laid down by progressive alt-rock kings Tool; the dynamic body of work from death metal dirge fueled shamans Opeth; the metal-meets-mystic dramatic flair of Mastodon; and the genre-defining crunch of Meshuggah.
 
Malevolent-sound-summoning vocalist James Dorton; guitarist, lyricist and clean vocalist Andy Thomas, who academic achievements are balanced by his love of the loud;   dynamic and fluid bassist Nick Shaw; and powerhouse drummer Jesse Beahler are united in their shared passion for envelope pushing progressive death metal and trippy atmospherics.
 
Like the band’s prior material Selves We Can Not Forgive was produced by Black Crown Initiate’s longtime collaborator Carson Slovak (August Burns Red, Texas In July, From Ashes To New), whose Atrium Audio studio is nestled in their native Pennsylvania.
 
The band’s keen awareness of the degradation and deterioration of culture powers much of the creative exploration on their new album, whether that decay is seen in art, politics, or anywhere else in society. The album kicks off with “For Red Cloud,” a straightforward heavy song at a medium tempo with deathly growls and magnificent clean vocals. The lyrics were inspired by the work of Native American author, poet, and activist John Trudell, who passed away toward the end of 2015, and named for Red Cloud, the Sioux resister to the European invasion and occupation of North America. 
 
The multifaceted “Belie the Machine” is heavy, dramatic and at turns dark and evil, ultimately the longest song Black Crown Initiate has ever composed, with an admonition against the idea that the world’s collective future is outside of anyone’s control. The album’s title track is perhaps the most experimental in the band’s already exciting history, integrating piano, cello (as heard on the last album, as well) and multiple clean vocals to dazzling effect. Like “Selves We Can Not Forgive,” the deeply personal “Matriarch” explores the influence of childhood events on adulthood. It decries the patriarchy and it takes a stark look at various types of abuse, from the physical to the psychological, and how those mistakes can adversely affect future generations to come.
 
Black Crown Initiate have worked their way into the heavy music community’s collective consciousness with steady determination, participants in notorious tours like Summer Slaughter and Metal Alliance and road companions with acts like Behemoth, Napalm Death, Deicide, Voivod, Crowbar, Unearth, Darkest Hour, Goatwhore, and Rivers Of Nihil. Likeminded supporters who made the thrilling discovery of songs like “A Great Mistake,” “The Fractured One,” and “Withering Waves” are rewarded in kind by the continued evolution on Selves We Can Not Forgive. As Black Crown Initiate continuously proves, heavy metal and heavy intelligence don’t have to be mutually exclusive. These five men are conjuring an awe inspiring body of work that is as unstoppable as it was inevitable, like existence itself. This is high-minded art delivered with a guttural growl.