Crowhurst is a shape-shifter of extreme music. Known primarily for their takes on experimental genres like noise and drone, the project returns with a broader take on the final installment of their trilogy simply titled III. Over more than 75 releases, the band has touched on many subgenres of experimental music and metal.
This time around, in addition to the dark ambient drone sounds, there is an emphasis on black metal and sludge with influences from 90s rock and noise rock. It is varied but cohesive, satisfying at times and dissatisfying at others.
The opener, “I Will Carry you to Hell” begins with a drone and what sounds like a sample of Gregorian choir. Sadly it is over too quickly, replaced by searing guitars and thundering double bass. While not quite typical black metal, it manages to embody the genre while nodding to noise and industrial.
“Self-Portrait with Halo and Snake” is much more patient, less urgent, with a steady build and vocals that, at first, sound influenced by Michael Gira (Swans) before becoming throated screams. The style continues into the next few tracks, with influences even from grunge. It is perhaps a step too far in the direction. This familiar, popular vocal style takes the listener out of the visceral and extreme nature of the music.
By the middle of the record I’m quite sick of the clean vocals. Advertised as a noise and metal record, halfway through it feels somewhere in between, becoming a watered down version of both. It makes the more accessible influences glare. While drone, noise, and black metal fit perfectly together, the almost Pearl Jam-like vocals on this track leave something to be desired. Overshadowing the solid music, it is difficult to hear the heaviness beneath.
“Ghost Tropic” boasts some pretty guitars, but more of the same vocals. For anyone who doesn’t mind the style, they will probably like this record even if they are not a fan of the most extreme forms of music. But that’s just it, the reason this record is so accessible it’s tamed, almost neutered by its artistic choices. For the project’s reputation as a harsh band, this album doesn’t deliver.
But the blast beats at the end of this track are awesome, and the wretched vocals are new yet assimilate well. The screams come from an angle that is more screamo than metal, but it fits into the paradigm much better than one of the dime-a-dozen projects that try to make this connection work.
Finally, “Five Characters Looking for an Exit” is as fierce as the album gets. The guitars rumble with distortion, becoming almost unintelligible as they pierce through their amps and your ears. The 808s at the end pulse both consistently and out of time. The static is futuristic, the groans primal, filled with despair. The record finishes with a line repeated again and again: “When will this end?”
Excited by hype on the record, it took me through a roller coaster of likes and dislikes. Overall it isn’t bad, it could just use a solid dose of both metal and noise. Despite my initial expectations, this record disappoints on its extremities and misses with its attempts at broadening the project’s sound.