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CROWNED IN UNHOLY TERROR: A BUYER’S GUIDE TO THE CROWN

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In all the excitement of The Crown’s reactivation, I’ve only recently stopped to wonder about their forthcoming seventh album’s title, Doomsday King. That is, I’m pretty sure about its meaning (this, right?), but can’t quite see the wisdom of a title so similar to 2000’s Deathrace King. Why court buyer confusion? Of course, there may be a thematic link or insider connection between the two albums. But if so, such a salient marketing point would certainly pop up in the press release. Hmm, I’m not seeing anything, although guitarist Marko Tervonen told me in December that Doomsday King “sounds like the bastard son of Deathrace King and Possessed 13.” Huh. Does that explain it?

For now, one thing we can clear up now is another Crown catalogue question: Which is the superior version of The Crown’s fifth record? Is it Crowned In Terror (1999) featuring then ex-At The Gates screamer Tomas Lindberg or its 2004 remake, Crowned Unholy, with longtime Crown frontman Jonas Lindstrand on the mic? For the intense Crown fan, each is required listening; everybody else shouldn’t be caught without at least one of the collection of these fucking brilliant Crown songs. So which is for you? Read on:

CROWNED IN TERROR

Running time: (42:58)

Recorded: September 2001 – January 2002

Released: April 9, 2002

Vocals: Tomas Lindberg (At The Gates, Disfear)

Producer: Chris Silver at Studio Mega

Mixer: Fredrik Nordstrom at Studio Fredman

Mastered by Goran Finnberg at Mastering Room

Mixed again by Chris Silver at Studio Mega

Mastered again by Kenneth Hakansson at Digitalfabriken

This version rips cuz: Lindberg is a frothing banshee (see “Drugged Unholy”) and his half-dozen contributions to the lyrics are fucking kick-ass (see “Death Is The Hunter”). Also, CiT is the trimmer, more violent take on this set. And it’s proof that a collection of killer songs can overcome recording woes. Do you like it wild, punky, and raw? Then open up that wallet for CiT!

What might bug you about this version: Your ear may be distracted by some noticeable production gaffes (see: the break in “World Below”). Its eventual remake is also justified by CiT‘s nutless, carboardy sonics, a result of disastrous recording sessions which the band laments at length in Crowned Unholy‘s liner notes. And though Lindberg is really awesome here (his performance got me more into At The Gates!) CiT does represent a threat to neatness as the only non-Johan Linstrand album by The Crown (until October 12 anyway), and gosh that’s if you can even enjoy CiT after all the shit-talking about Lindberg that followed his dismissal.

CROWNED UNHOLY

Running time: (43:37)

Recorded: October 2003 – February 2004

Released: April 24, 2004

Vocals: Johan Lindstrand (One Man Army and The Undead Quartet)

Producer: The Crown

Recorded, mixed, and mastered by The Crown and Dragan Tanaskovic at Bohus Sound Recording

This version rips cuz: Quality! Completion! Neatness! Drummer Janne Saarenpaa painstakingly upgraded drum sounds damaged in the doomed mixing and mastering sessions; new bass tracks are added. Arrangement-wise, “Under The Whip” benefits from a couple of tweaks and a haunting intro/solo passage is added to “The Speed of Darkness.” Oh, and the artwork is incredible and tattoo-worthy, a far cry from the noisy CiT cover. Most of all, by removing Lindberg, the face of a high-profile death metal band, a true Crown album is made of an oddball entry in their flawless catalogue. And it comes with a DVD that captures an entire 2003 show from The Crown’s ex-final tour. Want the total package? Then invest in Crowned Unholy.

What might bug you about this version: The new synths smack of overtinkering, but that’s minor. Mainly, it’s just so hard to get into an album twice — especially when the biggest change is the freaking lead vocals. The inevitable comparison reveals that Linstrand’s new take on these songs is more dynamic and melodic. So, because Lindberg stays in fifth gear throughout its predecessor, Crowned Unholy experiences a slight dip in energy on the mic. Maybe that’s the expression of a desire to reverse Lindberg’s work; shit, it could be that the band simply took an opportunity to further finesse arrangements; maybe Linstrand wasn’t totally into the whole idea.

-ADF

Go here to pre-order the fancy bonus tracks edition of The Crown’s Doomsday King from Century Media. While you’re there, pick up Crowned In Terror and Crowned Unholy for hours of headbanging, nitpicking fun!

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