The Crown - _Crowned Unholy_
(Metal Blade, 2004)
by: Pedro Azevedo (5 out of 10)
2001: charismatic frontman and founding member Johan Lindstrand leaves The Crown after the release of _Deathrace King_, saying he cannot endure any more touring. The band hire legendary vocalist Tomas Lindberg (formerly of At the Gates, among many others) to replace him, stating in interviews that Lindberg was the only acceptable option for them and that the band would have otherwise been forced to split up.

2002: _Crowned in Terror_ is released with Lindberg on vocals. After some touring, Lindberg leaves the band. Bassist Magnus Olsfelt allegedly points Tomas' different drinking habits as the reason (getting drunk before the show rather than afterwards and becoming impossible to deal with when in said state) and is quoted as saying that this was also what led to the demise of At the Gates. Lindstrand returns to the fold.

2003: _Possessed 13_ comes out, featuring Lindstrand back on vocal duties.

2004: Plans are put in place for partially re-recording the Lindberg-led, Lindstrand-less album _Crowned in Terror_. The Crown split up, citing problems caused by unprofessional touring arrangements as the main reason behind their decision.

And so we arrive at _Crowned Unholy_. Johan Lindstrand has recorded vocal tracks of his own for each and every song (including a solo performance on "Death Metal Holocaust", where he had previously participated in a duet with Lindberg), Magnus Osfelt has redone his bass tracks and Janne Saarenpää his drums -- only the original guitar lines have been kept intact. The whole thing has been remastered and packaged together with a bonus DVD featuring a gig in Germany.

When comparing the two versions, what stands out is that the drum sound has been considerably improved, the guitar sound has been tweaked into something that sounds more like _Possessed 13_ (whether that should also count as an improvement depends on your taste) and the vocals are Lindstrand's rather than Lindberg's. While this last item is also ultimately a matter of preference, it is undeniable that Lindstrand is the recognizable voice of The Crown, and as such comparing the two performances is somewhat pointless -- in my case, I was quite satisfied with Lindberg's, but Lindstrand's voice certainly sounds more natural for The Crown. Lindstrand's interpretation of the _Crowned in Terror_ material includes a rather cringeworthy clean sung chorus on "The Speed of Darkness" -- why they did that is beyond me, but it gives me strange flashes of The Crown turning into bloody Soilwork if they had kept going. Apart from this, the overall sound is superior to the original version (the beefier guitars will please most fans, and the drums are certainly better), and the album obviously retains the riffs and songs that made _Crowned in Terror_ a damn good album, as well as those that meant it wasn't the band's most inspired effort overall.

The live DVD was recorded in 2003 -- that's after Lindstrand rejoined the band, but before _Possessed 13_ was recorded. The Crown are playing a gig in what seems to be a small venue in Karlsruhe, Germany. The sound (plain stereo) is average for a live recording, and the visuals are kept basic throughout. The band delivers a fairly good performance overall, with impeccable drumming, tight rhythm guitar, variable melodic details and somewhat underwhelming vocals and stage presence.

I'm left wondering exactly what made The Crown want to take the highly unusual path that led to _Crowned Unholy_. It couldn't have been an excuse to include the shabby bonus live DVD, because there's supposed to be a full DVD release in the works. If it's down to ensuring a back catalog with Lindstrand singing on every album (the "true line-up"), then I find it peculiar, considering Lindberg's performance can hardly be faulted. If, on the other hand, this re-recording stems from the band feeling the original sound wasn't good enough (which they amply state on the liner notes), then that may be more justifiable; but I'm still unsure it is sufficient, unless Metal Blade are willing to offer a refund to everybody who bought the original defective(?) product.

Maybe all of this together adds up to enough to turn _Crowned Unholy_ into something credible; but that will likely remain a point of contention for fans to discuss heatedly for some time -- and since I have a hunch Metal Blade believe there's no such thing as bad publicity, they'll probably be quite pleased by that. Overall, _Crowned Unholy_ may be worth it for fans who already own the original but dislike its sound, and it's definitely worthwhile for those who do not own _Crowned in Terror_. However, I can't value the tepid bonus DVD much when a dedicated DVD is about to come out, and although the album sounds better than the admittedly faulty original, I don't see how that justifies paying for the album all over again. Much as this reeks of cash-in from Metal Blade, I'll still give it a 5 overall, taking into account the slight value it does offer to fans and the fact that there's also some people who don't own _CiT_.


(article published 19/11/2004)

10/16/2003 P Schwarz The Crown: Possessed to Race With Death
5/25/2000 A Bromley The Crown: Racing Towards Destruction
10/30/2003 M Noll 9 The Crown - Possessed 13
7/3/2002 D Rocher 9 The Crown - Crowned in Terror
5/25/2000 A Bromley 9.5 The Crown - Deathrace King
1/16/1999 D Rocher 9 The Crown - Hell Is Here
7/14/1997 D Schinzel 7 Crown of Thorns - Eternal Death
1/10/2001 D Rocher Morbid Angel / Enslaved / The Crown / Dying Fetus / Behemoth / Hypnos Belated Tales of the Unexpected
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