01. Hellbound 02. Like Flies To Flames 03. Protected By Judas 04. The Suburban Plague 05. XIII 06. Bastard City 07. Red On Chrome 08. Kings Among Cockroaches 09. Slipping 10. Where Jacky Jawless Lives 11. The Precise Art Of Knives 12. Phrases 13. Clean2004 Willowtip Records
by Adam Hellbound
For anyone who's familiar with them, it should come as no surprise that Sweden's latest and greatest technical death metal export would find a comfortable home on Willowtip Records. The small but hardworking label, responsible for the release of latter-day classics such as Rune's "The End Of Nothing" and Capharnaum's "Fractured," has outdone themselves with their most recent batch of releases. However, the one that stands out most, and is perhaps the most breathlessly anticipated, is Crowpath's "Red On Chrome." One needs to listen to no more than the first fifteen seconds of the album to understand why; opening track "Hellbound" hisses briefly with mutant radio static before frenetic drums break down the door and furious, dissonant guitar lines set fire to the entire house. About half-way through listening to the title track, I literally had to take a moment to breathe; such is the sheer brutality of Crowpath's assault. "Protected By Judas," an immediate highlight, begins with a short intro consisting of what sounds like a hockey organ run through a distortion pedal, then kicks into high gear with one of the most frightening vocal performances ever recorded. "Judas," much like most of the other songs on the album, never settles into a groove or allows the listener even a moment to drift off, constantly shifting tempo and meter; this is not to say that the songs are a mess but rather that the band manages to rein in the impulse to show off with endless noodling and showy riffage. The band seems to have made two conscious decisions that contribute greatly to the superior nature of "Red On Chrome," both of which are interesting in their own right. First, the songs are short. The longest of them barely reaches three minutes before flying apart under the strain of the chaos within. Whereas many bands would milk a good groove for all it's worth or pad out their songs with tedious breakdowns, Crowpath seems impervious to those temptations. The construction of the album is so meticulous that it approaches the precision required of architecture, yet the songs never lose their sense of urgency or collapse under their own weight -- the album seems not so much nailed or stitched together as elegantly woven. Second, the production is consistently top-notch and yet completely unlike anything I've heard before, omitting perhaps Burst's "Prey On Life." The recording (by Fredrik Reinedahl of Phlat Planet, which may explain the Burst reference) is unique; gritty, dense and menacing without ever becoming overbearing or muddy. While so many other metal bands choose a crystal-clear, verisitic sound, Crowpath are comfortable enough with their songs and their instruments to allow them to blend into one bracing wash of caustic brine that is at once vigorously dynamic and utterly crushing. In the hands of a lesser band, this production style would surely have yeilded an ugly, muddy mess; Crowpath take on the challenge and succeed admirably. Bottom Line: The entirety of "Red On Chrome," at thirteen tracks in just under 30 minutes, boasts some of the most tightly coiled, explosive songwriting I've heard in years -- especially now, when so many bands choose either to go the route of playing hackneyed NWOSDM-with-breakdowns (a large majority of American metalcore bands) or "technical" metal that's so impressed with itself that it teeters on the brink of becoming an unlistenable, boring mess. Crowpath are neither of these, eschewing melody almost completely and never allowing the concept of the music to get in the way of the music itself. Few and far between are those albums that immediately grab the listener; even rarer are those that boast a full half-hour of music so gripping and intense that one is left with no immediate response other than the visceral thrill of listening.
Comments (3) post new comment
stipe_ 9/2/2005 8:12:42 PM
of all reviews of this album on the net, this is the only one that seems to appreciate it fully a recognises it for what it is: amazing, original, daring, fresh, on the very verge of artistic perfection.