Crownshift- Crownshift (Album Review)

May 29, 2024


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Crownshift may be a brand-new group, but they bring a wealth of experience with them.  Not only have their members been a part of the likes of Children of Bodom, Nightwish, Norther, and MyGrain, but the three instrumentalists were also a part of melodic death metal band Naildown in the mid-2000s.  With this in mind, it makes sense that Crownshift’s self-titled debut evokes a considerable amount of nostalgia, capitalizing on the type of melodic death metal and groove metal that exploded in popularity between the early to mid-2000s.  Yet this debut isn’t a mere rehash of metal from two decades ago, as there are dips into power and progressive metal alongside other unexpected elements that keep the material feeling fresh.

As someone that really got into metal thanks to melodic death metal, groove metal, and everything else that was adjacent to that sound between the years of 2002 and 2004, Crownshift immediately drew me in with opener “Stellar Halo”.  Right from those opening guitar leads it feels like you’re transported back two decades, but with production values that avoid the overly compressed and cluttered sound of the era and instead give each instrument room to soar.  “Stellar Halo” has the type of fast paced and thrash grooves on the verses and huge room filling melodies on the choruses, channeling that Children of Bodom and Norther energy with just a hint of power metal in the background.  Crownshift could have easily stuck with this mixture for an entire album with their songwriting abilities, but as you get further in it becomes clear they wanted to offer a bit more variety.  “Rule the Show” feels a bit more progressive oriented and goes for a sound that’s a bit more Strapping Young Lad, instrumental track “Mirage” throws in some black metal riffs towards the end, and there are also some slight hints of gothic rock/metal to some of the melodies.  The ten plus minute closing track “To The Other Side” also transitions between melodic death, power, and progressive metal in equal capacity, emphasizing some of the softest atmosphere alongside some explosive hooks.  Crownshift never repeats themselves or uses the same predictable chorus structure, and the hooks feel familiar yet different at the same time.  Admittedly “To The Other Side” does seem a bit overstretched and could’ve been trimmed by a minute or two as it did drag a bit, and there’s room for the band to explore some of the progressive elements even further.  But I’ve found myself drawn back to the blend of catchy and technical instrumentation on display here quite a bit, as it really hits that same vibe from the mid-2000s in ways that bands who were active in that time haven’t been able to recapture.

Tommy Tuovinen is best known for his work with MyGrain and Damnation Plan, and he’s a perfect fit for the blend of styles Crownshift is going for.  Tuovinen handles both the harsh and clean ranges, and right from the start it’s clear just how versatile of a performance he can give.  “Stellar Halo” starts off screams and growls that tower over the recording, but they open up into huge choruses where the singing seems to take off into the stratosphere.  Guitarist Daniel Freyberg provides some supporting screaming and singing at key points to fill out the sound some more, and early on the combination of the two is about as peak melodic death metal as you can get.  On songs like “Rule the Show” Tuovinen lets his voice project outwards in ways that remind me quite a bit of Devin Townsend as well as some hard rock singers.  The hard rock side is amplified on “My Prison”, where the pitch adopts more of a grunge tone that is likely to surprise listeners the first time through.  This type of singing has always been an acquired taste for the metal crowd, but it’s one that I enjoy quite a bit and wouldn’t mind hearing more of as the band moves forward.

Crownshift has made a strong first statement with their debut while still leaving themselves plenty of room for growth and unique exploration.  It feels like they’ve taken a bit of every metal sub-genre that was thriving in the mid-2000s and put their own spin on it, putting plenty of progressive and power metal flourishes into their melodic death and groove metal foundation, and even with this diversity they still have hooks that stick with you over repeat listens.  The closer does come off as just a bit too long and I’d like to hear the band transform these ideas even further on album two, but there’s no denying that this is the type of material that feels tailor made for my tastes and I’ll be coming back to it for quite a while.  Crownshift is available from Nuclear Blast Records.

-Review by Chris Dahlberg