GUEST BLOG: DARKEST HOUR GUITARIST MIKE SCHLEIBAUM ON THE MOST UNDERRATED ALBUMS OF ALL TIME: THE CROWN’S DEATHRACE KING
[In which Darkest Hour guitarist Mike Schleibaum waxes ecstatic about the most underrated metal albums of all time, in his humble opinion.]
So you love Swedish Metal. You have all the sick records by In Flames, At the Gates, Entombed, Soilwork, The Haunted, Hypocrisy, Opeth, shit, you even have Darkane and Dismember in your collection. Sooooo then you love The Crown right? Yeah ok, there’s probably a few dudes thinking, “Shit, I know who The Crown are. Is he crazy?” I’ll get into it later, but I know for a fact that even at the height of their popularity in the USA we as metal heads in the states did a shitty job of showing the love. (And that was four or five years ago!) It’s with this in mind that I fear this great band (in particular this specific great record) may pass unnoticed and in the spirit of all things rock I offer up to you The Crown and their slaughtering Deathrace King record! Take it from a dude who has spent all of his adult life searching for inspiration in metal: this band, this record, are inspiring.
Originally dubbed Crown of Thorns, these thrashers later changed their name when legal action was threatened by a Christian glam band of the same name. (That last fact I got from their tribute Myspace. I don’t know if it’s true, but I do know they are now called The Crown). Stylistically The Crown play a hybrid of Swedish thrash and death metal with an emphasis on the fast and the extreme. While some Swedish bands drive on melody, the Crown focus their sights on blistering speed, pounding drums, riffy guitars, dirty bass, and sick vocals!
Look, you’ve read this far so I’ll confess, I actually know the band. Darkest Hour toured with The Crown for 4 weeks supporting the So Sedated So Secure record in April/May of 2002. The line up was actually The Crown, Darkest Hour, and All that Remains. The tour was booked by an infamous metal booking agent (Jeffery Digger) and needless to say had its ups and downs. All that aside, I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything and it was truly a fucking awesome time. The Crown were amazing guys and despite having their own internal turmoil seemed to have a good time. Oh shit. I left out one detail; they didn’t have their original and final singer Johan Lindstrand on that tour. I actually never saw The Crown live with Johan. In 2002 they had this other guy, his name was Tomas Lindberg. Yeah, that’s Tomas from At the Gates. Oh, and he was bad ass; in fact the whole band was fucking bad ass!
The first time I saw the Crown live was on that aforementioned tour with Darkest Hour. We were beyond stoked! We drove all night from Harrisonburg, Virginia to Indianapolis, Indiana. The show was at the Emerson Theatre which has this crazy sloped floor and a killer metalhead shop next store! I’ll never forget when The Crown hit the stage, dude, there were maybe 120 people there plus all the bands (turnouts varied from 120 to 600 on that tour. Needless to say it wasn’t the turnout or response any of the bands or promoters would have liked to have seen). The vibe in the club could have just sucked, but no, The Crown tore it down. They were so tight, so fast, so heavy. It was one of the few times in my life that I remember seeing Swedish metal played with the same fury and aggression of the punk and hardcore I grew up listening to! I was hooked, all in!
I had heard The Crown’s records, so I was a fan already. Crowned in Terror, the record they were touring on, was the only one Tomas Lindberg would ever sing on and is no doubt a fucking sick death metal/thrash assault. Tomas brings it hard and when you hear his voice hit on the first track I promise the inner metal caveman in you will smile and know this metal is good! The metal purist in me, however, doesn’t think it is the defining Crown record. To me the defining Crown record must be one with Johan Lindstrand on Vocals; it must be Deathrace King.
Recorded in May of 2000 at Studio Friedman by producer Fredrik Nordstrom, the Deathrace King record is actually the 4th offering from The Crown. The production on the record is classic Friedman with all the band’s personality and attitude pushing through in a killer blend! From the opening of track one The Crown put it all out there. There is no symphonic metal intro, no low rumbling noise with keyboard line, no weird atmospheric noises, just fucking all out ballsy riffage. The guitar team of Marko and Marcus bring it like classic Hetfeild and Hammett or King and Hanneman. I often think it’s funny how guitar players worship all the dudes who can shred. I mean, I know, I get it, but you know what’s a lot harder then arpeggios and shredding fast leads? Writing good riffs or writing good songs! And for that matter, the drumming on Deathrace King is perfect! (I know that sounds crazy and it’s not technically perfect, but by perfect I mean it is the perfect blend of technique and style). I doubt these drum tracks were sampled, replaced, and moved around to the extent that many records are these days. You can tell a metal motherfucker played all them beats and the attitude and style shine through in a big way. The bass, much like Entombed or even Motorhead, is not hidden at all. It blends perfectly with the guitar and even takes a more central stage in the tracks “Devil Gate Ride” and “Blitzkrieg Witchcraft.” Vocally I love Lindstrand’s delivery (I mean the lyrics are out there sometimes, but come on, it’s death metal). Stand out tracks like “Death Race King,” “Total Satan,” “Rebel Angel,” and the crushing “Back From the Grave” make this record an instant classic.
You love speed, death, thrash, (insert insignificant sub genre here), metal? Then get this fucking record! We all know if you’re too lame to go buy it on itunes you can just download it for free, so there is no excuse. If you want to check out new metal you will find a way to hear this band and this record. No matter how you get it, once you get it, I’m convinced you’ll love it and become a fan. How can you not? It’s crushingly sick death metal. So there you have it, a sick record that inspires me all the time. If just one more fellow dude out there finds inspiration in this record, well then, my work here is done.
[When not opining on MetalSucks or shredding across the world in Darkest Hour, Mike Schleibaum writes for his own musician advice website Ask The Dude.]