Released: 2017, Century Media Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
Four years after their rather brilliant, and somewhat horrifying, third album Profane, French black/death metallers Svart Crown return with a revamped lineup but a sound that is as malevolent as ever, if not more so, with its ritualistic vibe.
Replacing drummer Nico Muller and guitarist Clément Flandrois from last time are guitarist Kevin Verlay and drummer Kevin Paradis - from fellow French legion Agressor - who join founding guitarist/frontman JB Le Bail and bassist Ludovic Veyssière, the only two members who have played on all the band's albums. The Kevins fit right in with the ironically weightier and more measured material that boasts a significant presence on Abreaction.
Indeed, Svart Crown make a real statement in that regard at the outset, as the album slogs its way out of the gate with the sparse, almost industrial drone of “Golden Sacrament” made all the more ominous by Le Bail's tense, breathy vocals. The blazing full-throttle death metal of “Carcosa,” which follows, might have been a more obvious choice as an opener, though even it eases up in the middle around Paradis' voodoo-like drumming. But the slow, deliberate build of “Sacrament” brings a sense of mystery and anticipation that a more predictably brutal opener most likely could not.
And its certainly not alone in that regard. Tribal rhythms weave there way in and out of number of the songs, while the instrumental “Tentacion” sounds like something out of a spaghetti western, rattlesnake-shakey tambourines and all. “The Pact: To The Devil His Due” mixes heaving pace and grand scale with serpentine black metal guitar runs and eerie, meditative chanting – something that turns up again in the more uptempo but equally monumental “Khimba Rites” and album closer “Nganda.”
Even the band's more typical, technically adept tumult on “Upon this Infinite Madness,” “Emphatic Illusion” or “Orgasmic Spiritual Ecstasy” boast unorthodox structures or shrill a sheen of twitchy guitar that seems almost Voivod-like at time. And after being introduced by what seems like a Middle Eastern call to prayer, “Transubstantiation” has its death metal rampage take an abrupt about face at its midpoint and slink to the finish.
With its constant ebb, flow and contrast, and dense, layered sound, Abreaction is a lot to digest. And with the band forgoing some of the savagery of their earlier work here, it may test the patience those seeking immediate gratification. But the album has a simmering intensity and menacing depth not unlike Immolation's recent Atonement or Behemoth's The Satanist, and will satisfy for longer in the end.