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Album Review: Northern Crown – Northern Crown

Northern Crown’s take on epic doom has always had an experimental bent, but their self-titled second full-length album takes it a step even further. A greater emphasis on keyboards and 70s rock organ often overtakes the guitar work, and tempos fluctuate more than on their past outings. Fortunately, the band’s theatrics are intact as the Mats Levén-style vocals are consistent throughout and tracks like “The Desert and The Wind” and “By Demons Bidden” prevent the band from completely phasing out their Candlemass worshipping tendencies.

Fortunately, none of the album’s seven originals sound too out of place in this genre hodgepodge thanks to a consistent tone and steady performances. It’s hard to tell what the band is “best” at since they do well at just about every style they tackle. It takes a couple songs to find their footing but “Chasing the Sun” is a pretty strong rocker, the second half’s epic doom songs hit their marks, and “Righteous & Pure” matches its driving rhythm with surprisingly profound lyrics.

A closing take on My Dying Bride’s “Your River” ends up being the album’s wild card. It’s an incredibly faithful cover thanks to the powerful guitars, more ominous organ work, and appropriate vocals. However, when the album has spent so much time moving away with the straight doom style, it feels somewhat superfluous to see such a dead serious track on display. I’m not sure if an original in this style would’ve been better or if the album could’ve just ended with “By Demons Bidden,” but it’s honestly such a strong version that one can’t get too worked up over it.

As odd as it can be to see a second album go the self-titled route, it makes sense as Northern Crown eases itself into a distinctly encompassing identity. The incorporation of 70s rock elements results in a more vibrant sound and the doom flourishes are much more confidently executed than they’d been on previous outings. It is a grower but one that will likely prove an ideal starting point for curious listeners. My Dying Bride fans should approve of that closing cover but fans of groups like Sorcerer, Avatarium, and Apostle of Solitude will find the rest of the album just as relevant to their interests.

Highlights:
“Chasing the Sun”
“The Desert and the Wind”
“Righteous & Pure”
“By Demons Bidden”

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