“Think about Deep Purple if they had a more modern sound that contained a variety of progressive elements.” That was the description given to me by the promoter who allowed me to experience the latest full-length album In A Pallid Shadow from relatively new doom metallers, Northern Crown. And to tell you the truth, his words certainly don’t miss the mark.
In A Pallid Shadow might at first seem not that extensive with a tracklist of only five songs. But I assure you, the length of the album is enough to keep you busy. There are, without a doubt, a lot of strong aspects to be found here. One of them is the vocals. Frank’s voice is very reminiscent of Ian Parry of Elegy fame, although his singing (which never runs out of breath here) is utilized in a lower range.
Contrarily, you could say he sounds less baritone than Ayreon’s Robert Soeterboek. I also like the album’s non-metal elements such as the synthesizer solos, which can be heard on the first and final tracks that remind me of good old Playstation 2 music arranged for games by talented Capcom composers.
The classic 70’s Hammond organ sound is in almost all of the songs and most of the times sets an epic atmosphere (well worthy for Northern Crown to label themselves as epic doom) such as the semi-chorus of “Leprosarium” where the lyrics “Is this what you wanna be” are sung. It should be noted that this and the other tracks also contain very original guitar leads that only a virtuoso such as John Petrucci would ever come up with.
Lyrically, the band tackles very serious topics such as discrimination and fighting for your right to live, accepting your weaknesses along the way. Also, the band members seem educated enough to write lyrics that reference some very sophisticated novels. So don’t expect the singer to talk about less important subjects such as the occult or drug abuse, topics commonly discussed in the doom metal genre.
There is no arguing, though, that the album does have its disadvantages. The guitar tone is sometimes produced with a very muddy tone to the point where I can barely hear the riffs. The fuss made by the other instruments really doesn’t help that much. But, at least I can sort of understand what the riffs sound like because the Hammond organ basically plays the same chords as the guitar. In addition, I noticed that some riffs sound similar regarding different songs on the same album. However, they’re not completely recycled and are utilized and arranged uniquely so each song can be distinguished from the other.
Ending this review, In A Pallid Shadow, is an album that requires a lot of attention and “play the whole album again” clicks from the listener for him to appreciate the compositions. And I remark, In A Pallid Shadow should not be played as background music, especially for people who are not familiar with the trippy, experimental, progressive rock elements and of course for those who don’t dig slow and minorish doom metal.
For fans of Count Raven
Release Date: July 3, 2020
The album will be available for purchase here