Black Crown Initiate has achieved a lot in a very short amount of time. After blowing up the metal underground in 2013 with their critically acclaimed debut EP, Song Of A Crippled Bull, they were quickly signed by eOne Entertainment. In 2014 Black Crown Initiate released their first full-length album, The Wreckage Of Stars, my personal favorite album from that year. With such a strong debut album, their sophomore release, Selves We Cannot Forgive has become one of the most anticipated albums of 2016. If you’re a fan of progressive, technical death metal type music you’ve without a doubt heard the name Black Crown Initiate by now, which is impressive when you consider they’ve only been together for three years. Their unique sound and complex songwriting have gained the attention of the metal community very quickly. Now the question a lot of us are asking is; how will Selves We Cannot Forgive compare to the absolute masterpiece that is The Wreckage Of Stars? In my opinion, it not only lives up to the hype and holds up with its predecessor, but it also surpassed my expectations and is easily a contender for my album of the year once again.
Selves We Cannot Forgive opens with “For Red Cloud.” A perfect opener that is everything fans have come to expect from Black Crown Initiate thus far. It lets the audience know that they’re back and they still write ridiculously complex and amazing songs. The verse almost has a Gojira type vibe to it, not only musically but vocally as well. Track two, “Sorrowpsalm” is easily one of my favorite songs on Selves We Cannot Forgive. It opens with a very relaxing guitar riff before gradually adding bass, drums and a second guitar, keeping things very mellow and groovy. After about a minute and a half, the song picks up into an “Orion-like” riff with an eerie melody, a killer double kick pattern and brutal, catchy vocals. From there, “Sorrowpsalm” just keeps getting better. It’s packed full of deadly riffs, impressive vocals, incredible drumming and plenty of progressive tempo changes. It’s just an impressive composition overall. Clocking in at over five and half minutes, “Again” is one of the shorter tracks on Selves We Cannot Forgive. It features some pretty slick guitar work, complex offbeat drumming, and a catchy chorus. The guitar solo is also worth noting, it’s very original sounding and is probably my favorite part of the song. Clocking in at just under nine minutes, “Belie The Machine” is the longest track on Selves We Cannot Forgive. There’s a lot to this song, to say the least. The intro features a clean guitar riff with a really groovy and muffled drum beat. Eventually, more elements are added and the drums become clear. After the groovy intro, “Belie the Machine” explodes with heavy guitar riffs, drums, and brutal vocals. Once our ears have been pummeled with brutality the track transitions into a very cool little interlude with an awesome bass solo and groovy drumming. The song then breaks into a section very reminiscent of older material from The Faceless before returning to the familiar chorus and a killer guitar solo to close this amazing song.
The second half of Selves We Cannot Forgive kicks off with the title track. This track features piano in parts which was a nice touch. It’s definitely one of the slower songs but definitely one of the most atmospheric. It has a very emotional feel to it and even though it’s a fairly slow tempo throughout, the music is still complex. “Transmit To Disconnect” is another favorite of mine on Selves We Cannot Forgive. It’s a fairly straightforward song musically compared to the average Black Crown Initiate track but this song is pure dynamite. The way the riffs and vocal patterns work together is very clever, heavy and extremely catchy, just an awesome song overall. “Matriarch” is another great song. It opens with a clean guitar lick before jumping into a really cool riff with heavy vocals and drums. From there it jumps into a series of sections that have similarities to old The Faceless material followed by the well composed and catchy chorus. The interlude features another slow, groovy and impressive drum and bass showcase. The grand finale is an eerie track called “Vicious Lives.” There’s not much to this track from a musical standpoint. The tempo is slow and drawn out throughout the entire track. That being said this track sent a shiver down my spine on the first listen. It’s a great closer, very emotional and dark. It really finishes off the album beautifully.
Musically, Black Crown Initiate are extremely clever and gifted songwriters and it seems as though they can achieve whatever they set out to accomplish. Every member is extremely talented at their instruments of choice and even better at working as a unit to make unique and memorable compositions. The lineup on Selves We Cannot Forgive is pretty much the same as it has been since 2013 aside from Wes Hauch taking over guitar duties from Rik Stelzpflug who exited the band in 2015. Other than Wes the lineup has remained intact with Andy Thomas on guitars and vocals, James Dorton on the brutal vocals, Nick Shaw holding down the low end on bass guitar and Jesse Beahler on the drums. Production wise, this album sounds phenomenal. Everything is crystal clear and all instruments are distinguishable and easily heard. With Black Crown Initiate‘s dynamic and complex songwriting, production has to be top notch so the listener doesn’t miss out on any little aspect in their songs and they nailed it. The record sounds great.
Overall, Selves We Cannot Forgive is a great experience. I’ve been listening to this album for about a month now and I still can’t get enough. With only eight tracks the album looks short on paper but with the average song time being around the seven minutes mark, you get more than your money’s worth. There’s also enough material for about twenty songs but these guys just seem to like writing jam packed songs that usually go well beyond six minutes. Every member of Black Crown Initiate shines on Selves We Cannot Forgive. Everyone’s performance is nothing short of incredible. With so much talent in one band, the sky really is the limit for these guys. They experimented with their sound a lot more on Selves We Cannot Forgive but that shouldn’t surprise anyone as they are a brand new progressive band with a big emphasis on progressive. Selves We Cannot Forgive was released on July 22nd through eOne Entertainment and you can pick up a copy of Selves We Cannot Forgive through the Amazon link on the sidebar. I literally can’t find a single thing I don’t love about this album so I’m giving it a perfect score of 666/666 horns way up in the air. This album easily holds up with The Wreckage Of Stars and as I said earlier it’s another very strong contender for my favorite album of the year once again. If you’re into progressive death metal…hell if you’re into metal, in general, do yourself a favor and check these guys out.
Shawn “Short-Fuse” Carter