After Crown of Thorns shortened their name to The Crown, they became the most important Swedish band around for yours ogierly. The first Crown of Thorns album “The Burning” (1995) had already been quite potent a bashing, but still nothing could prepare for the immense, turbo-charged Thrash meets Death Metal mayhem that was the first The Crown release, “Hell is Here” (1998). Fast, sulphurous, deadly and yet so groovy that it almost rocked (and even rolled a bit). There was definitely Hardcore Punk in there as well, hiding among all that Death Metal that made The Crown as lethal as they were. Undisputed! Two years later they released one of my very favourite albums of all time, namely “Deathrace King,” and their reputation as something rather legendary was thus sealed.
Then the turbulence began. Vocalist Johan Lindstrand left in 2001, to be replaced by Tomas Lindberg of At the Gates fame. His time in the band lasted about a year and one album (a not at all bad one, called “Crowned in Terror”) and even though that record was a great display of seriously pissed off Death Metal, it still did not feel 100% like The Crown. Lindstrand, then soon returned and the band released a quite underrated gem, namely “Possessed 13″ (2003) and also made a new version of Crowned in Terror, this time under the moniker of Crowned Unholy (2004), only to see the band fall apart not too long after.
We, ‘The Unholy Cult of Deathrace King Worshiping Youth’ (c.) felt somewhat disappointed. The band had been almost there, you know. Far from weak, but never quite reaching their pinnacle again either. A number of “if only’s” were heard during the beer talk over the following years.
When The Crown announced their return in 2009 and released their comeback album “Doomsday King” in 2010, they had Jonas Stålhammar from Bombs of Hades as their new vocalist. HUGE anticipation was soon replaced with the realization that The Crown is not The Crown without the voice of Johan Lindstrand. He seems to be more important to the band than Bruce Dickinson is to Iron Maiden, or Rob Halford is to Judas Priest. Without him, they are just another Death Metal band. I Don’t know why this is so, but there sure is a thing there. The magic formula that makes them unique, doesn’t seem to work without him. Since the comeback, Lindstrand has again returned to the fold, but the band has still struggled a bit to find their soul. Until now.
“Royal Destroyer,” the ninth album from The Crown (not including here the Crown of Thorns ones) is their grand return to form. I needed to get this clear right from the start, and I am so relieved. On the previous one, “Cobra Speed Venom” (2018) the mad engine was already showing occasional signs of waking up, but now the cylinders are all firing and the vehicle has hit serious overdrive again. And it’s about time too! It started to look a bit like make it or break it for The Crown for a while now, you know.
But that is all in the past now. Now they are making it AND breaking things too, as you will no doubt hear.
“Royal Destroyer” opens up with the bloodthirsty Hardcore meets Death Metal burst of “Babtized in Violence,” announcing the return of the deathrace kings with style. Hear Hear! Shit is about to get brutal, and indeed it does! “Let the Hammering Begin” surges onward with Thrash Metal precision, including some trademark Possessed tom-runs by Henrik Axelsson. The blast beats are incredibly fast and even some old school synth chords can be heard in the background. The track is as lethal as a fire in a nursing home, no doubt about it.
“Ultra Faust,” then again, locks in to a new gear. Heavy as the sound of planets colliding level Morbid Angel worship. After a seriously fast first part of the album this particular tune proves to be incredibly neck-snapping. Still, my personal favourite tune is yet to come. “Glorious Hades” takes a surprising turn towards something that sounds almost like “Hammerheart” era Bathory. I did not see this coming, but I cannot stop headbanging from start to finish while listening to this, I simply can’t. It goes straight on the list of the best tunes out this year with incredible ease.
From the remaining tracks the brilliantly baptized “Scandinavian Satan” needs an honorary mention for the return of some Hardcore mayhem and additional lyrics in Swedish, that sound splendidly furious. “Devoid of Light” is another ‘a bit slower’ neck-snapper, and is maybe the most Morbid Angelish track The Crown has ever recorded in their career. “We Drift On” takes another unexpected turn when it bows in the direction of “And Justice For All” era Metallica. Just listen to those clean guitars and you will know what I mean. When the album closes with the aggressive, yet quite melodic “Beyond the Frail,” a deep breath or two is needed. Part of the audience will most likely need to breathe into a paper bag at this point. It sure has been an intense ride with enough twists and turns to keep a frantic look on the face of the listener throughout. The only complaint I could mention is the length of the record. With one tune less, it could have been an even more breath-taking an experience. Then again, this kind of structure allows the rich dynamics of the record to flourish. Sweet baby Yoda and a bunch of droids that go bleep, this is such an incredible album we have here!
After spending quite some time and many words to describe the greatness here, it’s time to wrap things up. There seems to be a queue forming outside of the TMW toilet, and the Dwarf seems to want in desperately. So… Ladies and gents of the moshpit: The Crown I know has returned. No doubts about it! They have released their best album since “Deathrace King,” and it is so close to that legendary masterpiece it could have almost been called “Deathrace Usurper.” “Royal Destroyer” is an intense and complex, well crafted, riff heavy, blast beat & thrashy mix of mayhem that only gets better the more you listen to it. It is a fanboy’s dream in a perfect way too – not replicating their past glories for a watered down effect, but moving hungrily ever onward to new territories to blow those poor bastards to bits, and then head off for a pint with Scandinavian Satan in the only pub left standing after the destruction ceases.
Rating – 4.5/5