Svart Crown - _Witnessing the Fall _
(Listenable Records, 2010)
by: Johnathan A. Carbon (7.5 out of 10)
"Svart" in Norwegian means dark or black. The term is most common when in reference to the Svart√°lfar or dark elves popular in Norse mythology. It is not to my knowledge why the name pairs a Norwegian and English word, or why a French band would use Norwegian in the first place. French black metal has been prominent in the last decade, yet never achieving as much success as its American or Scandinavian counterparts. Outstanding acts Peste Noire, Alcest, Blut Aus Nord and Deathspell Omega have enjoyed mild critical fame, but nowhere near the level they deserve. French death metal, on the other hand, has yet to reach any sort of collective agreement on style and direction. Somewhere in the middle is a meeting point. Svart Crown is here to help. _Witnessing the Fall_ either sounds like a metalcore album or a deathcore band name. What it doesn't sound like is 45 minutes of bile, grime and dizzy hatred.

Blackened death is a frontier with little rules regarding themes, style and even sound. The theory of blackened death combines the strongest punches from both genres into a frontal assault on the senses. The shrill dissonance of black metal married with death metal's guttural low end is as striking as it is chaotic. The black / death marches is open and vast, allowing bands to choose settlements without boundaries or neighbors. It is surprising that in 2010, this genre hasn't expanded or been populated by more high profile acts. Blackened death, deadened black or "The Black Death" exists with sparse civilization and dense wilderness . It could be compared to the wild west if the cowboys carried morningstars and rode demon spawn instead of horses.

_Witnessing the Fall _ continues the high relief style of pummeling eardrums in a given amount of time. The amplified fidelity puts the listener under the cascade of shrieks and screams. The disorientating nature continues as the guitar work from Clement Flandrois and JB Le Bail as it mimics a drunken sailor caught in a typhoon. While this analogy is slightly humorous, the guitars are the most sober portion of each song as it plays bouncer to the death bred rhythm section. Le Bail's vocals continue in the French tradition of subjecting the voice to unthinkable medieval tortures. Shrieks and gurgles all vie for dominance in a proverbial orgy of pain and suffering. With all that said, _Witnessing the Fall_ is a pretty damn decent record.

Once the primary wall of inaccessibility is broken, the listener can attach themselves to the many components which construct the record. Whether or not it is the fluid drumming or the bloodcurdling scream which opens "Dogs of Gods", _Witnessing the Fall_ is as memorable as it is exciting. Additionally, Svart Crown has made various leaps in terms of visual maturation from their 2008 release _Ages of Decay_. The chunky death metal logo has been replaced with an elegant serifed font. The meaty black and red demon paintings disappeared, leaving images reminiscent of Northern Renaissance printmaking. By all evidence, Svart Crown has either grown ten years in age or decided to embrace their black metal heritage with open arms. The visual aspect, as well as Svart Crown's love for abstract song titles, makes _Witnessing the Fall_ a developed record full of shade and hellish nuance.


(article published 22/12/2010)

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