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Northern Crown - In The Hands Of The Betrayer

Northern Crown
In The Hands Of The Betrayer
by Abir Kalai at 03 November 2014, 7:36 AM

Of a brand new band formed in early 2013 exposing to light their first sewed pieces ever in an EP format, with no known previous releases. The CD cover (a.k.a. the true first impression) is the fabulously perfect match of the album’s title, as well as the lyrics in which I will take you more in depth below as they are one of the foremost points of strength of this work as a whole.

As I started with the eponymous track “In The Hands Of The Betrayer” I felt the urge to check the annexed data of the album to verify the genre, for the tempo sounded quite vibrant for a typical doom album nay rather aligned with a thrash metal vibe though the tenebrous aggressive chords - far from complex – made the difference. But what stroke me most were the vocals' vibrato reminding me of Roy Khan’s, drenched to the core in its characteristic Epic theme – again – similar to that depicted in KAMELOT’s compositions, further accentuated through passages of drumming that will catch your ears unlike some lame irrelevant keys, covered up on the spot by a decent old school guitar solo on a minimalist background. So delighted that the latter feature would eventually become the pattern for the entire album and bestow a huge plus on both technical and aesthetic scales.

Moving on to “A Perfectly Realized Torment” we perfectly realize that the tempo this time is what we usually expect from a doom song, yet in the same way of the first track, the first notes of the bars –somehow- hinted an allusion of old school glam metal song until comes the adrenaline-rushed chord to englobe the whole succession of the bar, which kept varying by muting from open chords to palm mutes, the latter also serving to smoothly induce rhythm crescendo out of nowhere, fiercely calling the support of choir-timbered echoed backing vocals as if it were a two-voiced Gregorian chant. The solo part was more distant, more echoed than its previous till a point that it sounds a bit overdriven rather than distorted, albeit the palm mutes are giving it a warrior “drum roll" enhanced by a bunch of splashes and alternating epic toms beats The keyboards are rather amateurish thus playing a minor role in the EP - but the chords spiced them with a hellish atmosphere in a chance to catch up with the level of the bass’ brilliant contribution to this track.

With a more elaborate guitar solos and even a bass, more aggressive crashes and breaks, the band has crafted an honorable version of “Crystal Ball” in a bid to pay tribute to tribute to CANDLEMASS which they cite – among others - as an inspirational influence. The result? Power-styled shrieks unveiling an extensive vocal range, flowing endlessly alongside the tumultuous gloomy scales all while swiftly shifting in harmony. Above, I bet no listener would ever doubt that Frank Serafine is actually performing from the bottom of his heart emotionally melted with the lyrics he's singing, no wonder I read later on their biography "“this is easily the most personal art I've ever created…both musically and lyrically.”"

“Approaching, Encroaching Storm” took the diametrically opposite path, sculptured with a mingle of ambient elements and natural rain/thunder/wind sounds and as my ear seems to detect, gamma brainwaves – maybe suitable to meditation gurus – ornamented with a heavy distorted intrepid narrative voice, fitting the description of a Warrior's spiritual break before the final storm blows during a 11mn+ track obviously set to be the apogee as well as the epilogue to this Epic journey, where for once all instruments just turned submissive to vocals belonging to that very kind of vocalists inciting you to try to guess what his growl sounds like!

The clean guitar fingering solo is one of surprise elements of the track, symbolically simulating an abrupt transition from a particular state of mind to another before the ensemble of strings by the keyboards brings you back to the pool, leaving room to the fingering accompanied with tenebrous guitar open chords. One point to notice is the multiple piano solos cutting ties with the previous tracks and carrying on with such an ever-changing intensity which rises and falls following a sinusoidal rhythm. Yet the unexpected farewell cello solo emerged bouncing between sadness and hope in a dialogue with the sentimental lyrics of "To Thee I Give An Orchid ". Cherry on the pie!

Bearing in mind the fact that the different tracks of the compositions have been recorded in separate studios by separate artists then glued together, in no way shall I discard the possibility that these guys may become legitimate candidates to be the torch bearers for the doom prominent bands from the likes of MY DYING BRIDE. While witnessing less talented bands making an incomparable commercial success, these dudes seemingly opted for authenticity, for quality over quantity. Chapeau bas!

4 Star Rating

1. In The Hands Of The Betrayer
2. A Perfectly Realized Torment
3. Crystal Ball
4. Approaching, Encroaching Storm
5. To Thee I Give An Orchid
Zachary Randall – Guitars, Bass, Keyboards
Frank Serafine – Vocals, Guitars
Record Label: Independent


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Edited 05 October 2022

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