Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Crowned in Earth - A Vortex of Earthly Chimes (2012) | 85%

Union Jack Prog/Psych Metal pt. II: Dragonfly

I really liked the first album of Crowned In Earth, a solo project of Kevin Lawry with guest drummer Darin McCloskey (Pale Divine, Beelzefuzz..) and then I was surprised to learn that they had a new one and I wasn't even aware of it. My bad ! It would had been high on my top of 2012 list. I guess it went a little unnoticed, a damn shame since it's a very great record. While “Visions of the Haunted” was a traditional doom album with hints of Reverend Bizarre. This album on the other hand is way way more progressive (simply look at the very pretty Yes inspired cover art, done by the same artist who did Pale Divine's debut album). I might say that, on paper, this album is totally perfect for me, it has heavy doom riffs, good clean vocals, lots of progressive influences and long intricate songs. It's not perfect but it's a pretty enjoyable album

There's 3 songs over 10 minutes and while they're all pretty good, the transitions could necessitate some work like on “Watch the Waves” with its awesome flutes, clean guitars and keys parts. The songs have multiple parts that flow relatively well except it's so sudden sometimes, you hardly have the time to realize that you're in a soft part that there's a doom part coming your way. It's called the “Opeth syndrome”, not a lot of musicians can actually can pull of 12 minutes songs with many different genres and parts without making them disjointed. Some bands think that simply by writing long ass songs, they're progressive and forgets that actual songwriting is important. Fortunately, the blend of doom metal and progressive rock truly works here. Although, not  yet perfect, Lawry is on the good path. As his first progressive album with lengthy numbers, he doesn't fail at all since he's a very talented fellow. Considering he plays everything here except the drums, it's pretty damn impressive.

I was pretty happy to hear that Crowned In Earth switched to a proggier sound. Their debut, while decent, was a bit mundane. This one on the other hand is very good and expands on the progressive side that Cathedral never really wanted to explore with “The Guessing Game”. I always hoped that Cathedral would transform into a fully articulated progressive beast but it never happened as they dropped the style for their final release “The Last Spire”, well here's my chance with Crowned In Earth. Perhaps their compatriot Black Magician will follow their footsteps as they love the organ as well. Basically a mix of the musical heroes of England, the flute of Ian Anderson, the keys of Wakeman and Lord and the guitar of Iommi. A totally tasty homage with a clear personality and it feels rather honest compared to the healthy amount of modern bands rooted in the 70s.

Outside of the three twelve minutes tracks, there's two shorter ones (six minutes each) and they showcase the catchy side of the project. The vocals are a bit similar to Lee Dorrian's mesmerizing and original voice and the lush and rich atmosphere reminds me of the mythical and deceased band. They're pretty nice, clean and fuzzy enough to give an airy feeling and don't be afraid if you don't like Dorrian, it's similar but only in the delivery, not in the overall weirdness. The groovy guitar solo in “World Spins Out of Key” is very good and shows how talented Lawry is. It's a rare occasion to hear a one man band playing this style, we usually encounter lo-fi black metal artists devouring their misanthropy alone but not here, it's psychedelic progressive doom and it's very damn well recorded and produced. The atmosphere are magical, “Winter Slumber” has this jolly medieval vibe while not entering the cheesy kingdom of bad taste, it stays heavy and melancholic.

While it's not as fresh and well written as a band like Astra, it shows that prog rock can still be mixed with metal with good results. It's not awfully modern and full of sterile and lifeless riffs, it's something that my dad would like and there's nothing wrong like that. This sound is something that needs its share of amateurs and it's feels good to hear it mixed with doom metal. Nevertheless, I think the stronger quality of this album is its prog and calmer moments. Maybe it will be expanded on future releases.

Mandatory for both progressive rock and doom metal fans.

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