Artist Name: Northern Crown
Album Title: The Others
Release Date: October 14 2016
Genre: doom, goth-rock, European heavy metal
DOOM is a broad genre, ranging from fuzzy riffs to melancholic black metal, through to droning loops. After checking out the UFOMAMMU and Monolord gig last week I was keen to get my teeth into some more slow and heavy sounds.
Northern Crown‘s debut opus, The Others begins with a rollicking uptempo riff, full of the promise of early 80’s NWOBHM, but it does not sound at all like its proposed doom genre. After about 30 seconds the opening track With Malicious Eye suddenly stops, then begins lumbering forward with a more stately pace, reminiscent of early Black Sabbath. The music builds, adding organs over the guitars and drums, to a mid-paced pondering beat, sounding more like the Blue Öyster Cult. Soaring over the top of everything are Frank Serafine’s clean (albeit heavily modified) vocals that are much too loud over the music. By halfway through the song, I am ready write this off as “not a doom album”. The influences are partly evident, and the intent is there, however, the overall vibe is somewhere between goth-rock and early NWOBHM.
After clocking in at over seven minutes and stop-starting several times, the first track yields to the next, Surreality (The Tell-Tale Mind), which provides more up-tempo 4/4 beats and some slower keyboard laden sections. Snippets of Candlemass‘ influence emerge, though Serafine’s vocals struggle at times to reach the high notes for which he yearns.
It is the third track, No One Came to Mourn Me, which provides the greatest musical contrast, bringing an electronic bass and drum beat under wailing David Gilmour-esque guitars. This track would not be out of place on an early Nosferatu, Gossamer or Sisters of Mercy album. While for me the most interesting thus far, this track also highlights one of the album’s shortcomings: it is musically very sparse. The guitars, drums, vocals and occasional bass all live in discrete frequencies that sound umastered to perhaps produce a cohesive sound. Longer sections with only one instrument sound hollow and cold.
Apostate brings more ponderous to mid-paced 4/4 gothic rock, gelling the electronic vibe of the preceding track back to the guitar-laden sound of the opening tracks. A Pox Upon Your House brings back the strange, giving listeners almost four minutes of jangly medieval organs which could easily be a soundtrack to a King’s Quest game.
The album rounds out with the title track Les Autres, an 11+ minute epic that showcases the band’s full capability. If you can imagine a slowed down version of Ayreon, then you’d be close. This is by far the most complete and ambitious song on the album, making me wish that the other songs were as consistent and cohesive. Tempo shifts are smooth and guitar solos are integrated rather than sounding like afterthoughts.
Overall this is not a bad debut. Unfortunately it is let down by a poor mix and master, but the band’s songwriting matures as the tracks unfold, showing glimpses of a more prog-oriented future.