CROWNTwo years ago, two men and a drum machine emerged from ‘capitale des vins d’Alsace’, ready to burst eardrums and compact spines under the hefty weight of their gargantuan riffs and Neurosis worship. Since then, the duo have gone from strength to strength, proving that they’re able to deliver the goods on stage as well as in the studio and chasing after Godflesh’s crowning glory of ‘band that completely obliterates the need for a living, breathing drummer’. Fast forward to present day and much has changed within the C R O W N camp – no, they’re still very much involved with the love affair of their percussion bursting forth from a laptop, so the industrial side is still very much there. However, they have employed the skills of Frederyk Rotter (Zatokrev) as a permanent addition on third guitar and dual vocals. Whereas debut ‘Psychurgy’ celebrated the musical nuances of the likes of Isis, Cult of Luna and the works of Justin Broadrick, follow up ‘Natron’ sees the introduction of quieter, almost post-punk elements with definite nods toward Killing Joke.

This sophomore release features guest appearances from veritable rock and metal royalty, including Neige (Alcest), Michiel Eikenaar (Nihil) and Khvost (Grave Pleasures/Beastmilk). While switching between passages of loud/heavy and quiet/calm seems like the blue print of any typical post metal band (A Storm of Light), C R O W N raise the bar with their understated pre-programmed drums and harsh overtones of feedback knitting everything together comfortably. While the addition of a third guitar may seem like overkill, it has actually had the opposite effect and the newly forged trio’s sound is much simpler compared to that of the two-man produced debut.

While this record is still heavy enough in places that we can practically hear the force of stars being born and dying, with songs such as ‘Tension of Duality’ providing a soundtrack of gut churning potency. Closing track ‘Flames’ sees the band try out on a new playing style for size – it’s brooding, slow paced and the vocals are all clean, sounding much like a ballad compared to the music that’s come before it. This might be a hint of a new musical direction for C R O W N; however, ‘Natron’ certainly wasn’t the place to showcase it. The sudden shift in dynamic and pace makes it an odd fit, especially as it’s the last song, so it has a quality of feeling like it was tacked on for filler.

The second album is always the hardest and this is especially true for C R O W N, after releasing such a crushing first opus. However, they have managed to deliver, staying true to their industrial roots and expanding upon their sound with varying results; an excellent follow up.

(8/10 Angela Davey)