Hey, look, I got an album of Aussie atmospheric black metal and Dis Pater isn’t involved! Ahem. Sorry. But it weirdly (and stupidly on my part) surprised me with my recent review duties. Anyway, sporting a fine black and white cover, this is the debut from the Australian trio and we get six longish tracks of black metal steeped in thoughtful atmosphere but still retaining a fair old bite from the more orthodox strand of the Norwegian style and maybe just a pinch of the Quebecois scene with some of the high, picked melody. All good streams to sip from and it is certainly well blended and thoughtfully put together.

It all begins well with a cold, mid paced buzz riff topped with those high, sharp notes and some dry rasping vocals. ‘Menelvagor’ it is called and the almost perfect pitching of those three aspects mentioned really makes me hope I’m onto something special; Burzum and Forteresse meet Midnight Odyssey maybe. Alas it kind of falls away from me and the follow up ‘Journey To The Crossroads’ has the same issue; compellingly atmospheric when they use those high picked notes to counterpoint the riff but for the long passages without them it is a bit generic. There is an excellent, sparser and slower passage that builds to some superb, cavernous drumming but it is a passage.

It is curious but when Crowned step away from the full tilt riffing they often excel at some all encompassing darkness but for me they let it slip away with too many un-engaging sections which mostly lie on those riff sections. Not all the riffs have this effect on me; the opening song mostly works for me as does the slightly more chaotic and cacophonous ‘Apocryphal Catacombs’.

The title track which closes the album has an absolutely superb hard drilling riff and Crowned slowly layer this with sunken melody and a belligerent drive which kind of nudges me towards Exiled From Light with its genuine chilling atmosphere and almost gravitational pull. It is relentless, hard and frankly beautiful in its bleak, soul sucking presence. In short it both highlights how excellent Crowned are but how disappointing significant passages on this album are. But remember this is their debut and the title track leaves you with such hope in their talent that you genuinely can’t wait to hear what’s coming next. So please give this lot a listen as they are off on the right (or left) path from the off.

(6/10 Gizmo)