This is The Crown‘s tenth album. Some bands would have called it quits by now, and most would have seen sizable drops in music quality. Nearly three decades (if you include their first eight years as Crown of Thorns and 2008 short lived name change to Dobermann) have treated the band pretty well with their proverbial peak arguably being in the early aughts. Although I personally wasn’t huge on their last two efforts, the Swedish death metal band assert that they still have it in them with Cobra Speed Venom.
One thing you have to understand about The Crown going into this or any of their music is that they are unabashedly, almost stereotypically, death metal. They don’t have the notoriety or gruesomeness of bands like Cannibal Corpse or Autopsy, but like those death metal giants, there’s not much room for nuance or subtlety. I mean, this is a band with album titles like Death is Not Dead, Deathrace King, and… well, Cobra Speed Venom, which sounds like something from an anime. You’re getting thrashy riffs, fast-as-hell drumming, harsh screams, wild guitar solos, and you’ll like it. Or at least I do.
Probably the primary reason I do like it so much is a lot of this album represents the oft-chased return to form for the band. Many bands try, few succeed. The melody of “Iron Crown” is an unsettling roller coaster, going high and low throughout the song. Not only that, but the band employees some of the sickest blast beats I’ve heard from them in their entire career. They don’t dominate the song despite being prominent throughout, but they act as wonderfully heavy punctuation marks for the lead single. Production also plays a role into this, which has gotten a much needed tightening. The best part about this is things mostly just get better from here!
Occasionally, you’ll see The Crown get pretty dramatic and it takes a couple different forms. The title track gets pretty epic. There’s an almost symphonic air to the intro that morphs into one of the quickest riffs on the album, and that gnarly bass break! “Cobra Speed Venom” indeed. Album opener “Destroyed by Madness”, likewise, has somber strings establish the main riff for the track that is later used by blazing guitars. Other times, you get songs like “We Avenge!”, which is anthemic in nature and comes off more like an Arch Enemy B-side, but it’s lyrically and structurally the weakest track on the album.
As is typical of some albums by The Crown, we get an instrumental here, this time in the form of “Where My Grave Shall Stand”. It really takes the time to slow things down and really focus on melody. Comparatively beautiful passages of singing guitars drive the track in almost a light doom metal direction, especially when you consider the steady, heavy rhythms at play here. This theme continues into the next and final song “The Sign of the Scythe” with its plodding intro that wouldn’t be out of place on a Crypt Sermon or Pallbearer album.
When you have the proper mindset while listening to Cobra Speed Venom, it’s pretty rewarding for how straightforward it is. This is most definitely mood music, where the best corresponding mood is unrelenting aggression. I’ve always considered Boston death/thrash band Revocation a good companion band to The Crown. Both have been pretty consistent with their catalogs and have similar enough sounds to warrant the comparison, so if you’re familiar with them you know what kind of thrash wonderland you’re up for. Don’t come here for progressive measures, spacey ambiance, or highbrow concepts and lyrics. Hell, don’t even expect a redefinition of death or thrash metal tenets, this is simply a well done flavor of the sound and a statement from a band with a lot of age and experience saying ‘hey, we’re still here and ready to slay’. This doesn’t excuse their flaws of aesthetic overindulgence or the occasional subpar track as described earlier, it’s merely a warning to curb expectations a bit.
Cobra Speed Venom is everything it needs to be and nothing more, and for me, that’s all I need. I’m glad they were able to get back on the horse, so to speak, turning out their best album since the band’s break from The Crown name about ten years ago. It’s frenetic and volcanic with its energy. Good writing and a focus on melody coupled with improved production make this album a must for genre fans.
Notable Tracks: “Iron Crown”; “In the Name of Death”; “Cobra Speed Venom”
FFO: Revocation, Hypocrisy, At the Gates